During the Conway Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, a Conway woman and mother of six, had the opportunity to talk with board members present about the possibility of implementing district-wide behavior protocols.
Karil Greeson has six children, one of which has autism, two others adopted teenagers their family fostered for 18 months.
She told the Log Cabin Democrat knowing that background is important to why she decided to take this initiative on, parents to some of the district’s most “at-risk student population.”
This year, Greeson said, her child with autism had a difficult time and it seemed to her that Conway School District didn’t have a consistent approach to behavior, treated ultimately as a whole in a “negative fashion,” reactive instead of proactive.
“We have teachers who have kids with special needs in their classroom and they have no training or education on how to communicate and interact with these children,” she said.
Her frustration with Conway “boiled over,” in May, Greeson said. She said she began doing research on what the IDEA ACT recommends for behavior management, and discovered a behavioral policy that is strongly endorsed by the IDEA Act called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS).
“I wanted to find out what policy the district used,” she said. “I couldn’t find anything on the website other than they don’t use corporal punishment.”
From there, Greeson had conversations with the superintendent and the assistant superintendent K.K. Bradshaw, who she said “indicated” there wasn’t a policy district wide because Conway Public Schools was “too large” to do so. After she met with the special education district coordinator who indicated the same.
“This was concerning to me,” she said. “Not just for special needs kids but for all kids. Everything I have seen and heard is nothing but reactionary procedures to behavior issues. I had one child in ISS [in school suspension] last year who loved it. He said it was quiet and he got to do his work and then relax.”
Greeson said research shows punishments like ISS and OSS [out of school suspension] don’t work because kids don’t view them as punishment.
Due to this fact, she began looking deeper at PBIS to find out what districts were implementing.
“What I found was amazing,” Greeson said. “Large districts were either implementing or had implemented with success PBIS locally [such as] Jonesboro [School District] and [Little Rock School District] – in comparison are as big or bigger than ours [and] had this in place.”
That’s when she began lobbying to get this in place in Conway.
“PBIS, simply put, is a proactive positive approach to behavior that teaches behavioral expectations like any other core subjects,” Greeson said. “Districts choose three-five expectations they feel is most important [and] teach the students what these expectations look like and what they mean.”
From that, she said, there is no confusion and no “vagueness.”
Another part of PBIS includes positive reinforcement for following said expectations and treating those not following as another “teaching opportunity.”
“Multiple uses and followed through positive enforcement works for long term behavior change, punishment, which is what the district uses now) only leads to short term behavioral change,” Greeson said. “Lastly, it is important for the plan to be measured on a routine basis to make sure its effective.”
More than 20 years of research shows PBIS works and the district would benefit through implementation of the following:Reduce disciplinary referrals by 50 percent or more – which has been linked to reduced drop out rates. Reduce aggressive behavior, anti-social behavior and substance abuse. Create strong interpersonal relationships between students as well as students and teachers, which leads to an overall more positive school environment. Reductions in teacher and student-reported bullying incidents. Reductions in teacher turnover. Teach all students social, emotional and behavioral competence, which supports academic competence. Improved academic achievement.
“I am extremely passionate about our students and the success of each and every one of them and I truly hope the board and administration is as well,” Greeson said. “What do I hope comes from this ... I hope the board and administration makes the decision that at a minimum to [actually] reach out to the [state] PBIS TA Center.”
She said if that doesn’t happen, she hopes other parents will see that, learn more about PBIS and push for the same “drastic and positive change” that would come to the district.
“I love it when a parent, who I believe is s key stakeholder, can present things to us,” board member Trip Leach told the LCD.
He said their plan right now is to look into all that Greeson presented to see if it’s a viable option for Conway Public Schools.
“This could be something that really benefits the school,” he said, eager to learn about PBIS and the research backing it. “Definitely want the district to do our due diligence. I believe we owe it to her to take it seriously and see if it’s a good idea.”