The Use of PBIS in Resolving Ethical Dilemmas Created by Disproportionate Punitive Practice for Students of Color

The Use of PBIS in Resolving Ethical Dilemmas Created by Disproportionate Punitive Practice for Students of Color

Natasha Ferrell, Tricia Crosby-Cooper
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7582-5.ch012
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Disciplinary practices in the K-12 setting have historically shown a higher propensity for harsher punitive practices for students of color. This is evidenced by years of research describing disproportionate disciplinary practices. These disproportionate practices have created an ethical dilemma in our school system, as students of color have experienced higher rates of office discipline referrals, school suspensions, and expulsions. One method used in the school system to address disproportionate punitive practices is positive behavior intervention supports (PBIS). Positive behavior intervention supports is a systematic pro-active and preventative model that uses evidence-based interventions to reduce behaviors of concern. This chapter examines the use of PBIS to address the ethical dilemma created in the school system due to disproportionate punitive practices.
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School-Wide Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports (SWPBIS), also known as Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports (PBIS) has been considered an appropriate and ethical process for effectively dealing with student behaviors of concern. SWPBIS is a systematic process for addressing behaviors of concern that is evidence based and consists of theoretical and practical approaches of applied behavior analysis (McKinney, Bartholomew, & Gray, 2010). SWPBIS is a framework that can lead to significant decreases in problem behavior and promote learning and prosocial behavior in schools. It is important to note, the term “framework” is used because SWPBIS is not a pre-packaged, commercially available intervention; rather it a continuum of evidence-based practices to increase prosocial behavior and academic achievement (Scheuermann & Hall, 2016; Office of Special Education [OSEP] Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, 2010b). SWPBIS impacts the learning environment at the systemic, organizational, and individual level to facilitate appropriate behavior.

While research has supported the use of SWPBIS to decrease maladaptive behavior in students and increase prosocial behavior and academic achievement in schools, disproportionate use of exclusionary and punitive strategies for students of col/or continues to be observed across the country. This overuse of punitive strategies based on race and ethnicity presents several ethical concerns for practitioners. This chapter will discuss the components of SWPBIS and focus on addressing disproportionality by examining specific steps using the eight-step ethical problem-solving model presented in Jacob and Hartshorne’s (2007)Ethics and Law for School Psychologists (pp. 23-24) and demonstrate how SWPBIS can be used to solve some of the problems identified with traditional approaches as it relates to disciplinary practices with students of color. The process discussed adheres to the ethical principles set forth by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Principles for Professional Ethics (2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Treatment Integrity: Degree to which an intervention is implemented as intended.

Evidence-Based Interventions: Strategies and practices proven to be effective through systematic evaluation.

Beneficence: Acts or practices that benefit others and improve outcomes.

Applied Behavior Analysis: Behavioral therapy and practices that are based on learning and behavior.

Non-Maleficence: Commitment to “do no harm.”

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports: Behavior management supports used to determine environmental and internal factors that maintain the behavior, in an effort to reduce behaviors of concern and increase desired behaviors.

Ethics: The study of standards of conduct and moral judgement.

School-Wide: A systems-level change process utilized across the entire school.

Punitive Disciplinary Practices: Consequences following a behavior that reduce the probability of the behavior occurring in the future. Examples: loss of recess, detention, suspension, expulsion.

Disproportionality: Lack of symmetry, proportion or proper relation; a disparity.

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