District 51 looks to make discipline protocol more universal

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MESA COUNTY, Colo. District 51's school board is discussing creating a policy that could take pressure off teachers dealing with behavior issues in their classrooms.

Right now, District 51 schools use a theory known as positive behavior interventions and support, or PBIS, to discipline students.

"Every five positives we can give a student, there's always sometimes the negative to come out of that, but if we can use the positive to outweigh the negative, we see better results," said Hal Templeton, assistant principal of Mount Garfield Middle School.

At Mount Garfield Middle, PBIS has helped administrators lower the number of student referrals.

"That's more due to in house, in other words, the teachers making the relationship, doing their five to one, and finding ways to reach the kids," Templeton said.

However, school district officials said they've noticed implementation of PBIS varies at different schools, so teacher training is necessary to make the protocol more universal in the district.

Also, there are concerns that some teachers are afraid their students' behavior problems will be pinned on their own teaching abilities.

"A classroom teacher who reports multiple incidences may have a really tough group of kids that he or she needs quite a bit of support with," said Cathy Haller, prevention services coordinator for District 51. "Unless she feels free to report that, people may never know what she's struggling with."

Haller said the district is hoping to change this misconception and offer support to teachers whose students need extra disciplinary attention.

"If we're taking a student out to teach replacement behaviors then it's clearly not an issue that they have," she said. "It's an issue that's individual to the student."

The idea is in its early stages and no specific policy has been created yet to address the issue.

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