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Iowa City school district emphasizes use of PBIS reprimanding system

Liberty High School leaders use the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports system to better lead students instead of going straight to reprimanding them.

The Iowa City Community School District is now using a nationally known, less-intrusive setup when reprimanding students. It's called the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports plan. It involves schools looking closely at their own issues, instead of it done by the district at-large.

"We noticed that our number one referral was due to disrespect, insubordination," said Justin Colbert, Liberty High School's assistant principal.

Those are some of the issues the staff at Liberty High saw from their students' behaviors in October. It didn't take long for them to quickly find a way to help guide their students to forming better habits.

"We put together mini lessons we teach during the intervention block...We teach those behaviors -- so 'what does it look like to demonstrate respect from a student and a teacher,'" said Colbert.

Those interventions are part of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports plan. It's a system heavily relied on within the Iowa City Community School District and has been so for a little more than a decade.

"Typically schools will have a PBIS lead team -- comprised of the principal, school counselor, maybe a student and family advocate or anyone else that has some expertise on mental health supports, some grade level representatives, some specials teachers," explained Lora Daily, the district's director of learning supports.

Each team in the district's 26 schools focus on getting to the bottom of core behavioral concerns as it relates to their building.

"What are the areas of need? What are the areas of strength in our building? Where do we see some of the problem behaviors occurring?", explained Daily of the questions the teams are looking to answer.

It's through this method the Liberty High team figured out intervention periods a few times a week, works best for their students.

"You are putting together your expectations; you're being intentional about teaching those expectations to the students," said Colbert.

It's the district's hope that this system will have an everlasting impact on their students.

“Helping them realize their own potential and developing their growth mindset in them is really what a lot of this is about," said Daily.

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