Embedding Positive Behavior Support into School Systems

Which students would benefit from individualized positive behavior support plans?

All students engage in problem behavior from time to time although the majority of these students receive only a few office referrals. There are some students whose behavior appears to be escalating and are considered at risk for engaging in serious problem behavior. A smaller percentage of students engage in such severe and chronic problem behavior that a great deal of time and resources are spent attempting to support them effectively.

All students, regardless of the frequency or severity of their problem behavior, benefit from positive behavior support. School-wide positive behavior support includes interventions that address classroom, non-classroom, and school-wide issues. These interventions are described in more detail in the School-Wide Module. Individualized positive behavior support plans are needed when students do not respond to school-wide, classroom, and non-classroom interventions.

This figure shows 80-90% of children within the system may receive some office referrals for problem behavior. Approximately 5-15% of students are described at risk for serious problem behavior and receive a higher number of office referrals throughout the school year. There are 1-7% of students in schools engaging in severe or dangerous problem behaviors. These students benefit from individualized positive behavior support plans. 

How can positive behavior support be embedded in school systems?

School systems that have incorporated individualized positive behavior support processes use a team-based system for supporting students who engage in problem behavior. Teams that meet to address student behavior vary in many ways depending upon each school. Traditionally, these teams were established to support students with academic problems. Many schools are adapting these teams so that they address both academic and behavioral problems.

Teams that support students with chronic problem behavior will include a wide variety of school personnel. However, to create a system for individualized PBS planning, this student support team needs a team member with behavioral expertise to attend on a regular basis. Building a team-based positive behavior support system requires two levels.

Level 1: General Management

The first level of a team-based system includes general management issues. Team members include school professionals who:

  • review teacher requests for assistance,
  • ensure students and teachers receive support in a timely manner,
  • organize a smaller team of individuals to support each student, and
  • discuss policy and procedural strategies for managing positive behavior support plans.

This team should include administrators, teachers, and related service staff who meet on a weekly or biweekly basis.

Level 2: Individual Positive Behavior Support Planning

When a student who needs an individualized positive behavior support plan is identified, a smaller team is organized. The primary purpose of this team is to conduct a functional behavioral assessment, develop the positive behavior support plan, and monitor the effectiveness of the interventions. This team should include a member of the team from Level 1 and someone with behavioral expertise. Other team members include the teacher making the request for assistance, family members, and other school personnel who work with the student.

Useful Resources

Crone, D. A., & Horner, R. H. (2000). Building positive behavior
support systems in schools: Functional behavioral assessment.
New York, NY: Guilford Publications.
Freeman, R. L., Smith, C., Britten, J., McCart, A. & Sailor, W. (Eds.)
(2000). Development and implementation of PBS plans [Online]. 
Lawrence, KS: Kansas University Affiliated Program, Center for 
Research on Learning. Available: uappbs.lsi.ku.edu
Hieneman, M., & Dunlap, G. (1998). Positive behavioral support:
Guidelines for implementing positive, assessment-based 
interventions for students with problem behaviors. 
Division of Applied Research and Educational Support 
Child and Family Studies, University of South Florida.
Horner, R. H., Albin, R. W., Sprague, J. R., & Todd, A. W. (2000).
Positive behavior support. In M. E. Snell & F. Brown (Eds.),
Instruction of students with severe disabilities (5th ed) 
(pp. 207-243). Upper Saddle River: NJ: Merrill.
Todd, A. W., Horner, R. W., Sugai, G., & Colvin, G. (1999).
Individualizing school-wide discipline for students 
with chronic problem behaviors: A team approach. 
Effective School Practices, 17, 72-82.