Behavior problems? Your School Needs to use carrots, Not Sticks!

It’s no secret that kids don’t always act how adults want them to. Sometimes, when students don’t behave appropriately, the behavior can interfere with learning for themselves or their peers. There are many different schools of thought for how to deal with behavior when it starts to interfere with learning. However, in California, schools are legally required to first consider the use of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, more commonly shortened as PBIS (or sometimes PBS).

What Is PBIS?

PBIS is an approach to preventing and correcting undesirable student behavior. It uses Applied Behavior Analysis (“ABA”)-informed strategies to help any child with developmental disabilities/behavioral challenges to develop social skills, pre-academic skills, communication skills, play skills, coping strategies, To put it simply, schools are supposed to use carrots rather than sticks. Supports and interventions will range in intensity and frequency depending on the student’s needs.  You have a right to ask for PBIS.  Here some sample interventions to ask for from less to more intensive.

  • Teachers and schools can:   

        • Establish helpful reminders of expectations for particular settings (e.g., “Be safe in the cafeteria”)
        • Rearrange the classroom environment to lessen the likelihood of problem behaviors (e.g. sitting a student further from the door if they are likely to elope, sitting them away from a peer they have conflict with),
        • Provide accommodations, such as visual schedules or timers
        • Give consistent reinforcement for your child and others who follow behavioral expectations
        • Closely monitor your child’s behavior to see what causes it and how it can get better.
        • Provide extra tutoring and homework assistance because academic frustration can lead to behavior problems.
        • Conduct a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) to determine what triggers the behavior or unintentionally reinforces it.
        • Provide more support for your child, such as a behavior plan or a classroom aide.
        • Change your child’s class placement with more structure or supervision


Remember that PBIS interventions will look different depending on your child’s unique circumstances, such as their disabilities, grade level, and age.

What is illegal for a school to do:

      • Acting to harm, tie up, or otherwise restrain your child
      • Isolating your child during recess
      • Withholding food and water from your child
      •  Changing your child’s classroom placement without an IEP meeting

If your child has trouble managing their behavior, and their school has only not considered PBIS, then you may need a special education attorney.  I hope this post is helpful to understand your special needs child’s rights. Please feel free to schedule a free 20-minute consultation us by clicking the link below.