California District Adopts New, Positive Approach to School Discipline In High Schools
Jenée Littrell, Safe Schools/Healthy Students project director
Grossmont Union High School District
Before the SS/HS Initiative of California’s Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) decided to adopt PBIS, GUHSD administrators assessed the district’s disciplinary policies. The data revealed a number of problems, namely, that these policies were biased; that a small number of teachers made most of the disciplinary referrals, and that disciplinary sanctions did not improve student behavior. This concrete information helped administrators build the district’s readiness to adopt PBIS.
To gain staff support for the new framework, administrators consistently focused on redefining discipline and supporting positive behaviors, and they emphasized PBIS’s academic payoffs. The goal of positive and quantifiable results—such as improved test scores—ultimately secured the school staff’s support.
GUHSD’s high school teams adapted PBIS to meet the needs of each high school. For example, one high school adopted a schoolwide model, where everyone is exposed to the same messages in the same words. Another school encourages teachers to create behavioral norms for their own classrooms. Notwithstanding their different approaches, both schools use data to keep abreast of students’ needs and are enjoying positive results, including a decrease in disciplinary referrals. “All schools need to adapt PBIS, make it fit to them,” says SS/HS Project Director Jenée Littrell. “Implement with fidelity, but use whatever is appropriate for your culture.”
Today, PBIS is an integral part of the school district’s culture. Teachers and other school staff strategically share best practices, and there is synergy among schools in the district.