Students’ Mental Health Status, and School Safety, Discipline, and Disproportionality: An Anthology of Previous Blogs

Integrating Successful Research-to-Practice Strategies into the New School Year (Part II of II)

Dear Colleagues,

IntroductionChange is Hard

   As I continue to collaborate with educators across the country to help them open their schools for the new year (this week I am training in an Alaskan Early Childhood Center), I am struck by this primary theme:

   Most of my work—as a consultant, psychologist, and fellow educator—is about changing behavior.

   Indeed, depending on who I am working for, I am often tasked with changing or modifying the behavior of administrators, related services and special education professionals, general education teachers and support personnel, and—of course— students at all age levels and with all kinds of needs.

   To do this, I need to:

  • Develop strong and positive relationships and trust with my client-colleagues, the students and their parents, and the community and its various constituencies;
  • Be an effective communicator and professional development guide;
  • Provide ongoing mentoring, technical assistance, collegial consultation, and coaching; and
  • Offer honest feedback that encourages continuous growth, but also is constructive and specific.

   Changing behavior is not easy

   Sometimes it does not occur because people just do not understand what they are supposed to do.  Sometimes because they do not know the steps, or they have not mastered the skills.  Sometimes, they just need more time and practice—or they have reached their limit, and additional practice is not going to make a difference.  Sometimes, pressure from competing interests are undermining the motivation to change. . . or there is no motivation at all.

   My work is intriguing and complex.  And success is not guaranteed.

   But success will never occur if the process of change is not complemented with the evidence-based content that drives the change.

   And this is what today’s Blog (continued from Part I) is all about.

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A Blog of Blogs

   As we enter (or approach) the new school year, I thought that it would be useful to review some of the most popular Blog articles that I have written over the past year or more.

   And while my blogs do periodically address the processes underlying school and schooling success, I more often discuss the content that represents what administrators, teachers, support staff, and students need to demonstrate or change.

   Indeed, if educators (and others) don’t know how (for example) to organize a school’s staff into shared leadership committees, differentiate instruction, teach a social skills lesson, or implement a cognitive-behavioral intervention. . . then all the discussion, planning, and arrangements in the world are not going to deliver the needed or desired outcomes.

   Thus, I have organized the content of my recent (and past) Blogs into four clusters:

  • School Improvement, Strategic Planning, and Effective School and Schooling Practices
  • The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA/ESSA) and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support
  • School Climate, (Disproportionate) Discipline, Safety, and Classroom Management
  • Students’ Mental Health Status and Wellness

   In Part I (August 4th) of this “Series,” I provided chronological lists of the Blogs directly related to the first two areas.

   [CLICK HERE for Part I]

   In today’s Part II, I will briefly overview the last two areas—and then provide the Dates and Titles of the most important and relevant past Blog messages in reverse chronological order.

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To read one of the original Blogs cited below:

   Go back to the Blog “Home Page” on this website, or CLICK HERE

   Look at the right-hand side of this Blog page and click on the year when the Blog article was written.

   Find the desired Blog on the resulting web-page and click on it.  Each year’s Blogs listed there are also in reverse chronological order.

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School Climate, (Disproportionate) Discipline, Safety, and Classroom Management

   With the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA/ESSA), the importance of looking at and nurturing the non-academic factors that impact students’ academic proficiency is more important than ever before.  This especially includes ensuring that all schools are safe with consistently positive classroom climates, and that school discipline and classroom management are an inherent part of the “academic program.”

   Beyond ESEA/ESSA, however, school safety and discipline are constantly discussed in national reports and research, in the popular press, and on social media. As such, over the past three years, I have written a number of Blogs addressing, for example:  student engagement, the role and impact of school resource officers, student violence and injuries, and my ongoing concern that many school discipline “programs” have not been independently and comprehensively validated, and that they too often “promise the moon, but do not deliver the cheese.”

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This Year’s School Discipline Lessons Learned

  •    ESEA/ESSA (2015) and IDEA (2004) do not cite, mandate, or even recommend the PBIS (upper case, with acronym) framework advocated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), its tax-funded National Technical Assistance Centers, or the state departments of education who have accepted federal funds contingent on implementing these specific frameworks.
  •    Instead, these federal laws require—under very specific circumstances—the consideration of “positive behavioral supports and interventions” (lower case) for specific groups of students.
  •    Research commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education concluded that OSEP’s PBIS framework has significant psychometric and procedural flaws that are preventing their full implementation, and (at times) delaying needed services and supports to students who are demonstrating significant social, emotional, or behavioral challenges.
  •    The ultimate goal of a school discipline initiative is the developmentally-appropriate preschool through high school teaching and mastery of students’ social, emotional, and behavioral self-management skills.  These outcomes are manifested through students’ effective interpersonal, social problem-solving, conflict prevention and resolution, and emotional control and coping skills.
  •    The scientific foundation of an effective school discipline, classroom management, and student self-management initiative involves:  Positive School and Classroom Climates and Prosocial Teacher-Student Relationships; Behavioral Expectations and Social Skills Instruction; Behavioral Accountability and Student Motivation; Consistency across All of these Components; and Application and Extensions to All School Settings and Peer Groups.
  •    This scientific foundation is the same foundation that addresses the social, emotional, and behavioral effects of student poverty, trauma, teasing, bullying, and disproportionality.  This foundation is more defensible than the research-thin character education, mindfulness, restorative justice, and social-emotional learning framework approaches.

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   Here is a summary of the Blogs in this Area:

School Discipline and Disproportionality

May 23, 2018: Solving the Disproportionate School Discipline Referral Dilemma: When will Districts and Schools Commit to the Long-term Solutions? There are No Silver Bullets—Only Science to Preparation to Implementation to Evaluation to Celebration (Part III)
May 5, 2018: Decreasing Disproportionate School Discipline Actions with Black, Male, and Special Education Students: A Roadmap to Success. Taking a Hard Look at Our Practices, Our Interactions, and Ourselves (Part II)
April 15, 2018: New Federal Government Report Finds that Disproportionate School Discipline Actions Persist with Black, Male, and Special Education Students: Manipulating Policy, Buying Programs, and Following Federally-Funded Technical Assistance Centers Do Not Work (Part I)
May 14, 2017: The Endrew F. Decision Re-Defines a “Free Appropriate Public Education" (FAPE) for Students with Disabilities: A Multi-Tiered School Discipline, Classroom Management, and Student Self-Management Model to Guide Your FAPE (and even Disproportionality) Decisions (Part III)
February 19, 2017: Federal and State Policies ARE NOT Eliminating Teasing and Bullying in Our Schools: Teasing and Bullying is Harming our Students Psychologically and Academically.  Here’s How to Change this Epidemic through Behavioral Science and Evidence-based Practices
November 13, 2016: Beating Kids in Schools: How Corporal Punishment Reinforces Bias, Violence, Trauma, Poor Social Problem-Solving, and the Fallacy of Intervention. . . The Alternative?  Eliminate Corporal Punishment by Preventing its Need, and Implementing Interventions that Actually Change Student Behavior
September 25, 2016: U.S. Department of Education Reminds Educators about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports for Students with Disabilities: But. . . Watch Out for Their Recommendations and References
August 20, 2016: From One Extreme to the Other: Changing School Policy from “Zero Tolerance” to “Total Tolerance” Will Not Work. . . Decreasing Disproportionate Discipline Referrals and Suspensions Requires Changing Student and Staff Behavior
June 21, 2015: School Disproportionality and the Charleston Murders:  Systemic Change vs. State Statutes
March 15, 2015: Restorative Practices and Reducing Suspensions: The Numbers Just Don’t Add Up
September 21, 2014: Minneapolis Superintendent Bans Most Suspensions for their Youngest Students: What Districts Need to do Instead of Suspending (Young) Students
September 6, 2014: New Superintendents’ Survey: Suspensions Do NOT Change Behavior— What does?
April 6, 2014: Preschoolers Most Suspended Age Group: New Report and What It Means for You
March 9, 2014: Approaches to Eliminate Disproportionality: New Study Reinforces State-wide Student Discipline Inequities

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School Climate and Safety

March 25, 2018: School Climate, Student Voice, On-Campus Shootings, and now Corporal Punishment??? Listening to Students—When They Make Sense; and Not Listening to Students—When They’re Ready to Kill (Part III)
March 10, 2018: School Shootings, Comprehensive Prevention, Mandatory (Mental Health) Reporting, and Standardized Threat Assessments: What Schools, Staff, and Students Need to Do, and the Help that They Need to Do It (Part II)
February 24, 2018: School Shootings: History Keeps Repeating Itself. . . What We Already Know, and What Schools, Staff, and Students Need to Do (Part I)
August 12, 2017: Back to the Future: What My High School Reunion Reminded Me about High School Reform. . . The Non-Academic Essentials for High School Students’ Success
May 15, 2016: Student Engagement (Down), Teacher Satisfaction (Down), School Safety and Academic Expectations (Down)-- How Do We Raise Up our Students and Schools to Success?
April 17, 2016: School Resource Officers: Helping or Hurting Students and School Discipline? The Need to Integrate Criteria for Hiring, Training, and Involving School Resource Officers, School-based Police, and Security Guards in Our Schools, and into the ESEA/ESSA’s Required Bullying, Restraint, and Suspension Plans
August 3, 2014: Implementing the U.S. Department of Education's School Safety Report: Resources to Prepare your School at the Policy, Procedure, and Practice Levels
June 22, 2014: The 2013 U.S. School Crime Report Just Released by the US Departments of Education and Justice: Making Schools Safer during the Summer, so They are Safe in the Fall
June 8, 2014: New National Report Discusses Ways to Improve School Learning Conditions for Students and Staff. . . and How to Break the "School to Prison" Link for Behaviorally Challenging Students
January 26, 2014:  New Brown University Study: 90,000 Students per Year Suffer "Intentional" Injuries at School between 2001 and 2008…. Resources to Help Schools and Districts Prevent Student Violence, Assaults, and Aggression
January 12, 2014:  U.S. Department of Education Report: "Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline"

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School Discipline and Classroom Management

July 7, 2018: Elementary School Principals’ Biggest Concern: Addressing Students’ Behavior and Emotional Problems. The Solution? Project ACHIEVE’s Multi-Tiered, Evidence-Based Roadmap to Success
June 4, 2017: Effective School-wide Discipline Approaches: Avoiding Educational Bandwagons that Promise the Moon, Frustrate Staff, and Potentially Harm Students... Implementation Science and Systematic Practice versus Pseudoscience, Menu-Driven Frameworks, and “Convenience Store” Implementation
January 7, 2017: Education Week Series on RtI Highlights Kentucky/ Appalachian Mountain Grant Site’s Successful School Discipline Program: An Overview of the Scientific Components Behind this Success, and a Free Implementation Guide for Those Who Want to Follow
November 27, 2016: When Character Education Programs Do Not Work: Creating “Awareness” Does NOT CHANGE “Behavior” . . . TEACHING Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Skills Requires Behavioral Instruction
August 7, 2016: Effective School Discipline, Classroom Management, and Student Self-Management: The Five Components that Every School Needs... Reflections on a National Survey of Administrators and Teachers
July 9, 2016: Teaching Students Self-Management Skills: If We Want Them to Behave, We Need to Teach Them to Behave
May 30, 2016: The Difference between Social Stories and Social Skills Training? A BIG Difference!
November 1, 2015: Research to Practice: How do Teachers Influence Students' Classroom Self-Management? New Report says that Positive Classroom Climates and Relationships Most Influence Student Motivation
September 19, 2015: Why Students Don't Behave? Because We are not Teaching Them the Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Skills that They Need
August 22, 2015: New National Education Association (NEA) Policy Brief Highlights Project ACHIEVE's Positive Behavioral Support System (PBSS) as an Evidence-based Model for School Discipline, Classroom Management, and Student Self-Management
July 8, 2015: The Unfulfilled Promise of Education: Students' Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Skills
March 1, 2014: Implementing the U.S. Department of Education's New School Discipline Policies: A Three-Year Positive Behavioral Support Implementation Blueprint
December 15, 2013: The National Council on Teacher Quality and The New York Times: Teacher Training Programs NOT Preparing New Teachers in Classroom Management, and Zero Tolerance Procedures for School Discipline Do Not Work

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Students’ Mental Health Status and Wellness

   Over the years, numerous epidemiological reports have estimated that up to 40% of students, during their school-aged careers, experience a mental health challenge that bears formal services or interventions.  More recently, the connection between students’ mental health and the all-too-frequent school shootings (relative to the perpetrators, the victims, and the direct and indirect witnesses) has been tragically drawn. 

   And yet, these mental health and wellness “discussions” in our professional (and popular) press, often miss different levels of multi-tiered prevention, strategic intervention, and crisis management/intensive services specificity.

   Over the past three or more years, I have written a number of Blogs that have described an evidence-based blueprint with the components and pieces needed to implement effective multi-tiered social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health services, supports, programs, and interventions.  As a school psychologist, this blueprint and these approaches are not focused on treating students’ labels

   Instead, they are focused on (a) changing the emotional, affective, attributional, and social-behavioral interactions that “represent” (or the diagnostic criteria for these) students’ clinical labels; and (b) ensuring that the chosen approaches are directly linked (and are responding) to the underlying root causes of those interactions.

   This is a skills- and strengths-based approach.  It involves a continuum involving multi-faceted, systems-based assessment and intervention resources to direct, intensive, one-on-one evidence-based clinical therapy.

   Even though they are outside their training and experience, some educators nonetheless grasp for one-size-fits-all mental health “solutions” that may actually exacerbate the existing problems.  Others do not have the psychological experts available to guide the process, so they depend on those who are “closest” to being “the experts”—putting them in an unfair and untenable position.

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   Here is a summary of the Blogs in this Area:

Student Mental Health Status and Wellness

December 2, 2017: Teaching Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Self-Management Skills to All Students: The Cognitive-Behavioral Science Underlying the Success of The Stop & Think Social Skills Program. . . Don’t We Really Just Want Students to “Stop & Think”? [Part III of III]
November 18, 2017: Teaching Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Self-Management Skills to All Students: The Cognitive-Behavioral Science Underlying the Success of The Stop & Think Social Skills Program. . . Don’t We Really Just Want Students to “Stop & Think”? [Part II of III]
November 4, 2017: New Article Again Debunks “Mindfulness” in Schools: Teaching Emotional and Behavioral Self-Management through Cognitive-Behavioral Science and The Stop & Think Social Skills Program. . . Don’t We Really Just Want Students to “Stop & Think”? [Part I of III]
June 28, 2016: ADHD Students in Schools: New CDC Data and Their Implications for Intervention
May 1, 2016: Parents and Students in Jail: How do Schools Support Students with Parents in Jail, and Students who--Themselves--are Incarcerated?
February 13, 2016: Reviewing Mindfulness and Other Mind-Related Programs (Part II). More Bandwagons that Need to be Derailed?
January 30, 2016: Reviewing Mindfulness and Other Mind-Related Programs: Have We Just Lost our Minds? (Part I). Why Schools Sometimes Waste their Time and (Staff) Resources on Fads with Poor Research and Unrealistic Results.
October 11, 2014: Another Federal Push… What’s the Deal with Trauma Sensitive Schools?
August 17, 2014: Beginning the New School Year on the Right Foot: Why Classroom Routines, Behaviorally Disordered Students, and the Brain Matter
July 22, 2014:  Student Mental Health and Wellness: What the New RWJ Foundation Report Means for You

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   I hope that all of you had a great summer break . . . but it is now time to “hit the re-set button.” 

   As always, the new school year offers new opportunities and new beginnings.  Indeed, we all have a chance to build on last year’s successes, to “retire” last year’s disappointments, and to analyze, work on, and close last year’s gaps.  To this end, I hope that today’s Blog—and Part I on August 4th—will help you to attain these goals.

   To assist further:  If you would like to discuss any of the areas addressed in this and the other cited Blog messages, I am always happy to provide a free one-hour consultation conference call with you, your School Improvement, or your Multi-Tiered Services team.  These calls are designed to help you clarify your needs and directions on behalf of your students, staff, colleagues, school(s), and district.

   Please accept my best wishes for a great beginning of the school year! I hope the coming year is everything that you hope and want it to be.