Conducting “Special Situation Analyses” for Your Hallways, Bathrooms, Buses, Playgrounds, and Cafeteria
Reviewing Parts I and II of this Blog Series, and Introducing Part III
This three-part Blog Series has been an “after-school special.” That is, we have discussed the importance of schools and districts synthesizing and analyzing their end-of-year data so that they can evaluate the accomplishments of the past year, while strategically planning for the coming year. And critically, when we say, “the coming year,” we are talking about the need for schools and districts to prepare for the very first day of the new school year.
In looking at these data, we have focused especially on school and district discipline, classroom management, and student self-management (or SEL/PBSS) outcomes. We have done this from individual student, peer group, and school setting perspectives.
_ _ _ _ _
In Part I of this Blog Series, we encouraged schools to evaluate the behavioral outcomes generated by their Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), Positive Behavioral Support (PBSS), or school safety and discipline systems for the school year that just ended.
[CLICK HERE for Part I of this Blog Series]
To do this, we established a context by reviewing a number of recent national reports that surveyed educators about students’ behavioral problems in their schools, and other reports suggesting that bullying (including cyberbullying) is increasing in our schools nationwide. Some of these reports focused on Social and Emotional Learning approaches and outcomes, and some on school safety and bullying.
The Social and Emotional Learning Reports included the following:
- Report 1. A recent survey of 800 nationally-representative kindergarten through high school principals completed by the MCH Strategic Data company and published last month as K-12 Principals’ Assessment of Education.
- Report 2. A report, Breaking Bad Behavior, published by research company EAB that validates and extends the MCH Report above relative to elementary students’ behavioral challenges.
- Report 3. A report, Teacher and Principal Perspectives on Social and Emotional Learning in America’s Schools, published earlier this year by the Rand Corporation. It is based on a Spring, 2018 survey of the American Educator Panels that involved 15,719 nationally-representative teacher and school principal respondents. These educators answered questions about the importance and value of SEL in schools, how they were promoting and measuring SEL, and how they thought SEL approaches could be improved.
Based on these reports and our research and analysis, we discussed six significant flaws in the SEL framework advocated by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).
_ _ _ _ _
The School Safety and Bullying Reports included the following:
- Report 1. Published by YouthTruth, Learning from Student Voice: Bullying Today analyzed survey responses from students during the 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18 school years regarding their experiences with school climate and safety.
- Report 2. Published by Comparitech, this report discussed a survey on student bullying completed by over 1,000 parents.
A primary implication of these Reports was our strong recommendation that all districts and schools analyze their discipline, school climate, and classroom management data from this past school year. . . NOW. . . to determine (a) the current status of their students, staff, and schools; (b) what was accomplished (or not) in these important areas; (c) each school’s “return on investment” relative to, for example, their SEL or PBIS program(s); and (d) what situations need to be address for the coming school year.
To assist here, we identified a series of analyses and questions that schools can use to evaluate the discipline data from their student information or data management systems.
Based on the results from these analyses, we then recommended that school administrators and other leaders select one or two targets to address on the first day of the new school year, and begin the planning and preparation process now.
_ _ _ _ _
In Part II of this Blog Series, and based on the Reports above, we addressed the importance of analyzing school discipline data with an eye toward existing bullying and cyberbullying problems in and outside of our schools.
[CLICK HERE for Part II of this Blog Series]
To begin this discussion, we summarized a research-rich article, Studies and Teachers Nationwide Say School Discipline Reform is Harming Students’ Academic Achievement and Safety, written by Max Eden, a senior fellow who specializes in education policy at the Manhattan Institute.
This article reinforces many of the discipline-focused Blogs that I have written recently and over the years.
The “bottom line” is that policies rarely decrease school discipline problems or increase school safety or student engagement and their prosocial interactions. Instead, student behavior and school discipline problems are functionally changed through integrated, multi-tiered evidence-based practices.
This has been especially true in the policy-driven quest to decrease disproportionate discipline actions against students of color and with disabilities. Hence, the Part II Blog discusses six national flaws that have slowed our progress in decreasing not just these disproportionate disciplinary actions, but the need for discipline actions with all students.
Part II of the Series then described our Special Situation Analysis process, and applied it both to analyzing school discipline data and to developing systemic interventions for school bullying when it is identified. The goal is for schools to use this process to develop and implement “prevention and early response” approaches now . . . for immediate roll-out on the first day of the new school year.
_ _ _ _ _
And now in Part III of this Series, we will apply the Special Situation Analysis process to school situations where significant numbers of disciplinary problems are occurring in the Common School Areas—the hallways, bathrooms, buses, playgrounds, and cafeteria.
To do this, we will review our Special Situation Analysis process, and then apply it to schools’ Common Areas and, especially, their cafeteria and buses.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
The Need for and Components of a Special Situations Analysis as Applied to Common School Areas
When students exhibit inappropriate behavior in the Common Areas of a school (e.g., the hallway, bathroom, buses, playground, or cafeteria), or anti-social behavior with their peers (e.g., teasing, taunting, bullying, harassment, hazing, or physical aggression/fighting), there are a number of complex individual, small group, large group, and even environmentally-relevant psychological processes in play. When there are problems in these areas, school leaders (and relevant members of their School Discipline and/or Behavioral Mental Health teams) need to systematically analyze these processes—in an objective, data-based way—to determine the root causes of the problems. The results of these analyses can then be linked to strategic or intensive interventions to decrease and eliminate the problems—replacing them with appropriate student, staff, and school interactions and related processes.
Thus, we are recommending a data-based problem-solving process to comprehensively (and effectively) address existing, persistent, and/or significant Common School Area or Peer-Related Antisocial Behavior problems. Given the complexity of the “processes in play” (as above), we call this data-based process a “Special Situation Analysis.”
To demonstrate the complex processes present, note that the Common Areas in a school often have:
- A larger number of multi-aged students (than in a classroom) who are in closer proximity to each other;
- A larger student-to-staff ratio (resulting in less adult supervision, and, sometimes, supervision by paraprofessionals who are less-respected by some students);
- A physical lay-out that is different than a classroom with space that is often larger (e.g., a cafeteria, the playground) and with physical boundaries that are less defined; and
- A climate that includes more noise, higher (physical) energy levels, and more external stimulation.
Relative to the complexity of Peer-Related Antisocial interactions, note that student-to-student teasing or bullying (for example) often:
- Occur in the Common Areas of a school (hence, the remaining characteristics below are interfaced with the Common Area characteristics above);
- Include one or more student aggressors, some of whom are teased or bullied by other peers, and are “passing the aggression” along;
- Include one or more student targets, some of whom lack critical social skills which either set them up as targets or undermine their ability to appropriately handle the situation—so it does not reoccur;
- Include one or more by-standing students whose inaction (when that occurs) serves to inadvertently reinforce the aggressors’ teasing or bullying;
- Include no adults near the incidents, or adults who observe the incidents and do not intervene (for various reasons); and, in summary,
- Involve clear goals or intents on the part of the aggressors who, in the absence of timely and meaningful consequences, are empowered and reinforced by their anti-social acts.
_ _ _ _ _
The Components of a Special Situation Analysis in the Context of a School’s Common Areas
Given the ecological nature of behavioral problems in the Common Areas of a school (or as related to Peer-to-Peer Antisocial interactions), the Special Situation Analysis must be similarly ecological in nature. This is because the root causes of the problem could exist in any one (or a combination) of the ecological components.
Thus, like the detective in a murder case, the analysis begins by (a) identifying and functionally describing what appear to be the essential problems; and (b) systematically evaluating the characteristics and interactions within each of the components.
Then, as the data and analytic results include or exclude the involvement of specific components, the interdependencies of the remaining components are re-analyzed to objectively and validly reveal—as much as possible—the root causes of the existing problem.
There are six components in a Special Situation Analysis. They are briefly described below as applied to the Common School Areas. Bullying is embedded in the discussion as an example of a behavioral issue that often occurs in many Common School areas.
As is apparent below, the peer group is considered a distinct part of the analysis as research has clearly established the connection between peer group interactions and the safety and climate of a Common School Area. Thus, using bullying as an example, the interplay among student aggressors, targets, and by-standers in a Common School Area problem situation must be analyzed early on, and then specifically addressed through Special Situation Analysis results.
Student Characteristics, Issues, and Factors. Consideration here involves specifically analyzing the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of the students interacting in a Common School area (e.g., in the hallways, bathrooms, buses, playground or “hang-out” areas, the cafeteria), and those exhibiting problem behavior—such as bullying.
For a problem situation, the analysis should include how the students interact across all Common School Areas (to determine the pervasiveness of bullying that is initially observed in only one setting), as well as interactions in other non-Common School settings (as the Common Area behavior may be a carry-over from a classroom or via social media). In addition, the analysis should look at how different groups of students might be preventing some of the bullying, how they are reacting in the Common School Area(s) of concern, and how they are responding to the bullying (or not responding in the case of the bystanders).
At a primary prevention level, part of this analysis includes evaluating students’ existing interpersonal, social problem-solving, conflict prevention and resolution, and emotional control and coping skills . . . not just in their classrooms, but actually in the Common School Areas. Once again, it is important to note—as described earlier—that students need to handle situations in the Common School Areas that involve, for example, more multi-aged students, less supervision, a different physical lay-out or space, more or different movements and “traffic patterns,” and a climate that may have more noise or stimulation.
Relative to Common Area problems—and bullying, in particular—some of the problem may be that some students do not have the needed interpersonal, social problem-solving, conflict prevention and resolution, and emotional control and coping skills for these settings. . . or they are not transferring or generalizing these skills— which they demonstrate in their classrooms—to these settings.
Thus, the absence or generalization of these skills may be the root causes of the identified problem(s). In addition, student motivation, student-to-student and staff-to-student accountability, and the consistency of student and setting behavioral expectations and responses (especially to inappropriate student interactions) also must be evaluated.
At a secondary prevention level (in the context of bullying), part of the analysis includes (a) looking at what the aggressor, target, and by-stander groups of students are doing to contribute to the problem while completing a functional assessment of their relevant interactions; (b) analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the different groups of students and their skills and abilities, beliefs or expectations, and motivation or resistance relative to the problem situation; and (c) evaluating other situational issues or factors that, once again, are contributing to the problem or could be leveraged toward a possible resolution.
Teacher/Staff Characteristics, Issues, and Factors. Consideration here involves specifically analyzing the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of the administrators, staff, and other adults who are directly present or indirectly involved in the Common School Areas relative to bully prevention, action, and response activities. This often also involves paraprofessionals or aides (who have supervisory responsibilities in one or more Common Areas along with administrators and instructional staff).
Once again, the interface between how teachers handle bullying that occurs in the classroom, and student bullying that occurs in a Common School Area must be analyzed. If, for example, teachers see bullying in the classroom, but do not directly address and resolve it, the bullies may be empowered to extend their bullying to the Common School Areas where fewer adults and more possible targets are present.
More generically—and paralleling the Student component above, the process here involves functionally analyzing the primary prevention elements, and then such secondary prevention elements as: (a) how well administrators, teachers, and/or other adults understand the social and behavioral dynamics of the adults and students, and their actual interactions, in the different Common School Areas; (b) what they are contributing to bullying situations relative to their interactions and responses; (c) the differential strengths and weaknesses of different groups of teachers and/or staff, and how their skills and abilities, beliefs or expectations, and motivation or resistance contribute to or could help solve bullying situations; (d) how teachers or staff—who are physically absent from bullying situations—nonetheless contribute to these situations through their tacit encouragement or indifference; and (e) the interactional or situational patterns, issues, or factors that, once again, contribute to bullying problems or their potential resolutions.
Environmental Characteristics, Issues, and Factors—Physical Plant and Logistics. Consideration here involves investigating the settings where bullying predominantly occurs, the dynamics of and conditions (both positive and negative) within those settings or environment(s), and how these conditions are contributing to or causing different facets of the problem.
Depending on the environment, this assessment could involve analyses of (a) the physical lay-out, condition, and organization of furnishings within the setting (e.g., the table set-up in the cafeteria, the organization of play areas on the playground); (b) how students and others move into, out of, and within the setting; (c) the organization and logistics of students and supervising adults in the setting (e.g., when and under what conditions students and adults are present in the setting, what grade levels of students are in the setting and where supervisors are positioned, how quickly students must enter and exit the setting); (d) student-staff ratios and, once again, the deployment of staff within the setting; and (e) other related and relevant factors.
Once again, information from these assessments must be merged with the information collected in the Student and Teacher/staff components such that a delineation of the strengths, weaknesses, problems, and potential solutions within the “ecology” begin to crystallize.
Incentives and Consequences. Consideration here involves analyzing the incentives, consequences, and interactions of individuals and groups (both peer and adult) in the different Common School Areas that are encouraging and sustaining appropriate student (and staff) behavior.
Relative to bullying, these analyses need to be meshed with assessments of the different bullying (and non-bullying) situations that are occurring, and what individual student, adult, peer group, and school/district incentives and consequences (a) are motivating the active prevention, avoidance, or discouragement of bullying incidents; and/or (b) are discouraging, responding to, or resolving future bullying after an incident has occurred.
Ultimately, from a primary prevention perspective, the essential question is:
“What will motivate everyone (i.e., through incentives and consequences) in the school to create positive, nurturing, and supportive classroom and Common School Area settings where everyone interacts in tolerant, prosocial, and proactive ways relative to interpersonal, social problem-solving, and conflict prevention situations?”
From a secondary prevention perspective, the collective incentive and consequence patterns of individuals, (present and absent) groups, and others must be differentially analyzed to understand how bullying occurs in some, but not all, situations.
For example, do by-standing peers—who are not confronting a bully or otherwise assisting a targeted student to leave a bullying situation—recognize that their inaction may actually reinforce and/or strengthen the bully’s behavior—such that they may be the bully’s next target?
Or, do by-standing students fear that their involvement will actually result in them being future bullying targets—perhaps because paraprofessionals, teachers, or school administrators are unwilling or unmotivated, themselves, to confront the bully (or his/her parents)?
Finally, are some teachers indifferent to bullying situations because (a) “it’s an administrative issue,” (b) they “do not want to get involved,” or (c) they are not sure that the administration will “back them up” if they do take action?
Regardless of how difficult a bullying problem may be to solve (this is also often a resource issue—see below), the functional analysis of special situation incentives and consequences still must occur. Too often, staff do not complete the problem-solving process because they see no hope of viable solutions. And yet, many times—after the problem analysis has been completed—the changes, incentives, and consequences needed to solve the problem are not as daunting as first anticipated.
Resources. At the school level, a consideration of resources often includes time, money, materials (e.g., books, videos, equipment), activities, people, space, and ideas or creativity. Like incentives and consequences, assessment here involves analyzing individual, group, setting, and situational resources and how they are used. But this assessment also identifies resources that exist, but are not being used; and other resources that are available—for example, from other schools, the district, or in the community—but that have not been considered or used.
Thus, a resource analysis here looks at (a) what resources are available in or to the problem situation or setting; and (b) whether the existing resources are being used effectively, ineffectively, or not at all. Critically, the “deployment” of existing resources must be part of this analysis. For example, some student bullying may occur when certain teachers—who are supposed to monitor students as they pass through the hall between periods—do not consistently perform this responsibility. While this does not “cause” the bullying, it certainly contributes to it, and it must become part of the global solution to the problem.
Similarly, some schools have teachers who are absolved of “hall duty” because of teacher contracts. And yet, they still are impacted when students come into their classrooms not ready for immediate academic engagement—because they are emotionally or behaviorally affected by bullying incidents in the hallways. In many schools, we have seen these teachers “step up to the plate” to actively become part of the solution. That is, these teachers decided that the “educational benefits” of their involvement were more important than not being involved because it was not contractually required. Thus, they became an important resource, contributing to the situation.
Peer GroupCharacteristics, Issues, and Factors. As noted earlier, some peers passively (or actively) support some students’ bullying actions—especially in the Common Areas of a school. Passive support occurs, for example, when peers ignore the bullying of others, do not support others who are trying to stop a bullying situation, or do not help a student who is begin victimized.
More importantly here, though, is the fact that bullying is best addressed when student peer groups agree that bullying will not be tolerated anywhere in the school, and they take an active and concerted stand to prevent and respond immediately to such situations.
Given all of this, the inclusion of the peer group in the Special Situation Analysis process reinforces the reality that peer groups often directly or indirectly reinforce or support teasing, taunting, bullying, harassment, or physical aggression.
Assessment here, then, involves determining the presence, contribution, and impact of the peer group—especially in the Common Areas of a school, as well as their willingness to become part of the solution. If willing, a skills assessment follows to determine the peer group’s actual ability to exbibit the interactions needed to help prevent, diffuse, and/or disengage bullying and other precursor situations. This assessment needs to be tailored to the ecological factors in each Common School Area.
If needed, social skills training in the settings involved can teach students needed skills. This training can then be paired with activities that empower and reinforce peer leaders to use these skills in both bullying prevention and bully response situations—once again, in each Common School Area.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
A Setting-Specific Special Situation Application: Sample Questions When Analyzing Inappropriate Behavior in the Cafeteria
Many times, across my different consulting experiences, an analysis of the discipline data for an entire school year showed a high percentage of office discipline referrals coming from the cafeteria. Often, this was backed-up by my observations in the cafeteria where I saw students running around without permission, supervising staff not responding or huddling to the side of the room talking together, and/or a single paraprofessional screaming into a microphone while trying to maintain “order.”
Given the description of the Special Situation Analysis components above, below are some of the essential questions when applying a Special Situation Analysis to a Cafeteria with large numbers of student behavior concerns.
Student Characteristics, Issues, and Factors
- Are there specific students, groups of students, and/or grade levels of students who are the primary offenders?
- Are there specific students (etc.) who consistently reinforce peers’ inappropriate behavior?
- Are there specific students (etc.) whose presence and/or actions result either in less inappropriate behavior by the primary offenders, and/or more appropriate student behavior in general?
- Do the different groups above vary by gender, race or culture, socioeconomic status, or where they live in the community?
- If in a secondary school, do they differ by the elementary schools that they attended, by their GPAs, or by the teachers whose classes they attend?
- When it exists, why does the inappropriate behavior occur, and why do the offending students behave appropriately on the occasions when that happens?
- Do the offending students choose to behave appropriately versus inappropriately at different times and/or due to different conditions?
- Does the presence or the response from specific peers or staff increase the offending students’ appropriate behavior, and does the presence or response from other peers increase these students’ inappropriate behavior?
- How long has the inappropriate behavior been occurring? Is this a historical pattern of concern, or has the inappropriate behavior just recently begun?
- What are the strengths, skills, and assets of the different groups of students noted above, what are the attitudes of the latter three groups toward the students demonstrating the inappropriate behavior, and what is their commitment to seeing the behavior change?
_ _ _ _ _
Teacher/Staff Characteristics, Issues, and Factors
- Are there specific staff members to whom (differ groups of) students respond more positively or negatively, and does their presence in the cafeteria predict when inappropriate behavior occurs or does not occur, respectively?
- Do staff consistently teach (in advance), and prepare or remind students of the cafeteria expectations before they enter the cafeteria? How (and how quickly, directly, and consistently) do they reinforce or correct students (if they do) for appropriate versus inappropriate cafeteria behavior as it occurs?
- Are there enough staff in the cafeteria throughout the school day, are they present for the entirety of each grade-level group’s meal, and are they effectively positioned across the cafeteria to maximize the impact of their numbers and supervision?
- Do the different student groups, especially those who are exhibiting the problem behaviors, respond appropriately and similarly to every staff member, or are there differences in their responses?
- If present, why are there differences in how students respond to certain staff members? Does this relate to gender, race, culture, experience, role, status, responsibility, or other differences between the specific staff and students involved?
- Does the presence or the response from specific staff increase or decrease students’ appropriate versus inappropriate behavior?
- Is the inappropriate behavior a historical or a recent pattern of behavior? Does it relate to the characteristics or student management approaches of the school’s administrators, and/or to changes in one or more administrator(s) from year to year?
- What is the commitment of the staff and other adults in the school to seeing the behaviors of concern change?
_ _ _ _ _
Environmental Characteristics, Issues, and Factors-- Physical Plant and Logistics
- Are there certain areas of the cafeteria where behavior problems occur or do not occur?
- Do the behavior problems occur (a) in the cafeteria line as students wait to get their food; (b) in the serving area; (c) as the students are leaving the serving area and going to their lunch table; (d) at the lunch table; (e) when students are throwing their trash away; and/or (f) when students are exiting the cafeteria?
- Do behavior problems occur (or not occur) as a function of (a) the number of students in the cafeteria at one time; (b) the noise level in the cafeteria; (c) what is on the menu; (d) the time of the lunch period; and/or (e) whether they have a rest period or recess before or after lunch?
- Do behavior problems occur (or not occur) as a function of (a) how students and adults are clustered or organized across the cafeteria; (b) how many different types (e.g., grade levels) of students are present at different points in time; (c) the student-staff ratios and how supervising staff are organized or “deployed” across the cafeteria; and/or (f) other related and relevant setting factors or demands.
_ _ _ _ _
Incentives and Consequences
- What incentives and consequences are motivating students and staff to demonstrate appropriate behavior and interactions in the cafeteria?
- What incentives and consequences are motivating students and staff to demonstrate inappropriate behavior and interactions in the cafeteria?
- Are the incentives and consequences meaningful and powerful from the perspective of the students demonstrating the inappropriate behavior?
- Are the incentives and consequences of a “negative peer group” competing with those of the adults in the school such that specific students are demonstrating inappropriate behavior because the peer group’s contingencies are more important or powerful than the adults in the school?
- Are other students inadvertently reinforcing inappropriate student/peer behavior in the cafeteria by providing attention when that behavior is occurring, and/or by not actively ignoring or disapproving of that behavior?
_ _ _ _ _
Resources and Resource Utilization
Based on the Special Situation Analysis:
- What resources (money and finances; facilities and physical plant; materials and activities; time, scheduling, deployment, and logistics; people and professional development; technology; and creativity and hard work) are being used that are partially helping to either prevent or directly solve the problem?
- What resources are available to help directly solve the problem—but are not being used or used effectively?
- What resources are needed to help directly solve the problem?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Another Brief Special Situation Application: Bad Behavior on the Bus
While many of the questions in the Cafeteria section immediately above can be adapted to behavioral situations that may be occurring on different buses serving a school, there are a number of critical points (suggesting possible interventions) that are somewhat unique to this setting:
- Many students do not understand that the school day begins at their bus-stop in the morning, and ends after they leave the vicinity of their bus-stop in the afternoon.
- Many school buses have a wide range of student age levels on them, and some begin their runs very early in the morning and/or finish them very late in the afternoon (when students are tired and more prone to behavioral upsets).
- Many school buses travel either a significant distance both to pick up their students and get to school, or their students are on the bus for an excessive amount of time due to traffic or other delays.
- On most buses, the only adult present is the bus driver (that is, except for buses transporting students with disabilities, most “general education” buses have no on-board assistants or paraprofessionals)—thus, there is a minimal level of supervision (especially as the bus driver’s most important job is to drive the bus).
- Many bus drivers are not trained or knowledgeable in child and adolescent development (or in understanding different student disabilities), or in the discipline and behavior management approaches that are consistent with those of their schools.
- Many bus drivers have never met with their schools’ Leadership Team (at all or on an ongoing basis), they often do not have a personal relationship with their schools’ administrators, and they often do not develop personal relationships with the students on their buses.
- Many bus drivers are not briefed—much less trained—on how to respond to different students’ social, emotional, or behavioral needs.
- In a single district or school, most bus drivers are responsible for setting and enforcing their own behavioral/disciplinary expectations. Thus, the expectations may not be developmentally sensitive, they may not motivate appropriate student behavior, and they may differ—again within a single district or school—from bus to bus.
- In most schools, a disciplinary infraction—that occurs on a bus and is referred to the Building Principal by a Bus Driver—is handled exclusively by the Building Principal. There often is no post-incident interaction between the student involved and the bus driver, and the student may end up feeling less accountable and more motivated to interact inappropriately with the bus driver than ever before.
- School buses are another Common School Area place where large amounts of teasing, taunting, bullying, and harassment occur; and where different peer groups are often initiating and/or reinforcing inappropriate student interactions.
When schools have a number of buses with problematic student behavior, each bus should be independently evaluated through a Special Situation Analysis. Based on the results, the school can then prepare common interventions when the root causes of the inappropriate behavior are similar across numerous buses. But more individualized interventions may be needed when different buses have different root causes to their respective behavioral challenges.
One of the keys to both the Special Situation Analysis and to the interventions that follow is the active involvement of the bus drivers.
In a preventative sense, there should be one consistent set of positive behavioral bus expectations at the elementary versus secondary level in every school district, along with another consistent set of responses, consequences, and disciplinary actions to different intensities of inappropriate student bus behavior.
The bus drivers in a district should participate in the development of these expectations and responses/consequences, and they should be trained on them each year.
Similarly, the students should be trained each year in the behavioral expectations on the bus, and they should be well-versed—from a developmental perspective—in the responses and consequences to inappropriate behavior. Often, this training begins in a classroom with chairs organized to simulate a bus’s seat configuration. Eventually, the training re-occurs in a real bus with a real bus driver—to maximize the transfer of training effects.
Critically, when bus drivers participate in this student training—especially during the first week of a new school year, and they learn the names of the students on their buses quickly, we find that discipline problems on the bus are prevented and maintained at low student levels.
Nonetheless, in a responsive sense, when discipline problems on a school bus are frequent, persistent, significant, and/or resistant-to-change, the involvement of the bus driver in both the Special Situation Analysis and in the training and execution of needed interventions is, once again, essential to a successful resolution. In fact, when most students realize that they are going to be held accountable for appropriate behavior on the bus and by their bus driver, once again, many students’ discipline problems are resolved, and these students’ prosocial interactions return.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
In this three-part Blog Series, we have encouraged schools and districts to synthesize and analyze their end-of-year data so that they can (a) evaluate the accomplishments of the past year; while (b) strategically planning for the coming year—beginning on the very first day of the new year.
In looking at these data, we have focused especially on school and district discipline, classroom management, and student self-management (or SEL/PBSS) outcomes. We have done this from individual student, peer group, and school setting perspectives.
In Part I of this Blog Series we recommended that schools evaluate their Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), Positive Behavioral Support System (PBSS), or school safety and discipline systems and outcomes from the school year that is now ending.
Initially, we created a context to help schools to evaluate (with a goal of improving) their SEL programs by reviewing a number of recent national reports that surveyed educators about students’ behavioral problems in their schools, and other reports suggesting that bullying (including cyberbullying) is increasing in our schools nationwide.
We then recommended that schools analyze their discipline data now so that they can identify large-scale school problems that have consumed significant amounts of staff time this past year.
To assist here, we identified a series of analyses and questions that schools can use to evaluate this year’s discipline data from their student information or data management systems.
In this Part II of the Series, we described our Special Situation Analysis process, and applied it to analyzing and developing systemic interventions for school bullying. The hope is that schools will use this process to develop and implement “prevention and early response” approaches now . . . for immediate roll-out on the first day of the new school year.
In the current Part III of this Series, we applied the Special Situation Analysis process to the Common Areas of a school—the hallways, bathrooms, buses, playgrounds, and cafeteria—using bullying in these settings as an embedded example. We then used the Special Situation Analysis process to address cafeteria and bus situations.
_ _ _ _ _
As previously discussed, a Special Situation Analysis begins by (a) identifying and functionally describing what appear to be the essential problems; and (b) systematically evaluating the characteristics and interactions within each of the components. Then, as the data and analytic results include or exclude the involvement of specific components, the interdependencies of the remaining components are re-analyzed to objectively and validly reveal—as much as possible—the root causes of the existing problem.
At this point:
- High-probability-of-success services, supports, strategies, and/or interventions—that are directly linked to the interdependent root causes—are researched and identified;
- A comprehensive Special Situation Intervention Action Plan is developed, written, and approved— specifying the goals and objectives, needed resources and training, people involved and implementation timelines, and short- and long-term success evaluations;
- The prerequisite training and resource-acquisition activities are completed, and the services, supports, strategies, and/or interventions are implemented;
- The short-term evaluations are completed, along with needed modifications, additions, mid-course corrections, and/or other changes; and
- The long-term (or summative) evaluations are completed, and the services, supports, strategies, and/or interventions are faded out and discontinued, or maintained and generalized.
In going back to the original theme of this Blog Series, if administrators and school leaders—who have analyzed their end-of-year discipline data—identify trends or results that implicate a Common School Area and/or Peer-Related Antisocial Interactions. . .
We strongly encourage that they complete a Special Situation Analysis now, that they develop their Action Plan soon, and that they work toward implementing that Action Plan on the first day of the new school year.
To accomplish this, the administrators and school leaders probably need to focus on only one Special Situation, and they will need to select one where the Special Situation process has a high probability of being successfully implemented at the beginning of the school year.
The ultimate point here is that, without attention and intervention, a “true” Special Situation at the end of one school year is likely to re-emerge and continue starting at the beginning of the new year.
Based on well-analyzed data, the summer is a perfect time to “knock one Special Situation out of the ballpark”—that is, to move in a strategic and concerted way to address (if not eliminate) one Special Situation from “re-emerging and continuing” into the next year. Hopefully, this can then create the momentum needed for other situations to also be addressed . . . resulting in a cumulative effect that improves the safety and climate of the school, and the prosocial interactions of the students and staff.
_ _ _ _ _
I hope that the information in this Series has been useful to you. As always, I look forward to your thoughts and comments.
Please know that, even during the Summer, I am still available to provide a free hour of telephone consultation to those who want to discuss their student, school, and/or district needs.
Feel free to contact me at any time if there is anything that I can do to support your work.