Abstract: Making PBIS a Culturally Responsive Practice: Lessons from One School District (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

280P Making PBIS a Culturally Responsive Practice: Lessons from One School District

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Jessica Yang, PhD, Assistant Professor, Winthrop University, SC
Yolanda Anyon, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Purpose: Awareness of the school discipline disparities has grown substantially in recent years resulting in school districts nationwide implementing changes to promote more equitable practices. Departing from harsh zero-tolerance policies and shifting the focus toward a positive school culture and the use of proactive school wide behavior systems. Discipline approaches that promote prosocial learning and reframe discipline as a social emotional competency provide positive results with regard to appropriate student behavior, improved academic performance, and reductions in discipline disparities. Specifically, school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (SWPBIS) can have numerous positive impacts on student and school outcomes, reducing office discipline referrals and suspension rates and improving school climate. Although the efficacy of SWPBIS in reducing overall discipline incidents and suspensions is well substantiated, evidence about the impact of this approach on racial discipline gaps is mixed. Many scholars argue that SWPBIS alone will not reduce disparities, reducing racial disparities requires a race-conscious approach that recognizes the role of racism and racial stereotyping in discipline processes and relies on culturally relevant frameworks as part of the school-wide approach. As such, the aim of the present study was to 1) in schools that were able to reduce or eliminate out of school discipline understand how common it is among school staff to report SWPBIS concepts overall and 2) to what extent did these schools place an explicit focus on implementing their SWPBIS systems through a racially conscious framework. 

Methods: From within a large school district of 180 schools, 37 were purposively selected for inclusion in the study based on having attained equitable discipline rates (< 3%) for all students. 33 of these schools participated with representation from 20 elementary, 4 middle schools, 3 high schools, and 5 schools that educated students across multiple grade levels. Interviews were conducted with school administrators and focus groups were facilitated with school faculty and staff all using a semi-structured interview guide. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using Dedoose software. Analysis relied on inductive and deductive approaches, as a preliminary code framework was developed based on existing literature but the unique experiences of participants was derived from iterative code development. Codes were assessed for inter-rater reliability across a team of three researchers using Cohen’s Kappa (k > .80).

Results/Implications: Findings indicate that while nearly every school in the sample used a school-wide PBIS system, despite nearly a decade of racial bias and equity training, only a handful implemented their systems within a culturally responsive framework. Moreover it appears that race was still a taboo and uncomfortable subject for many. Among schools that discussed a culturally responsive implementation of PBIS, they shared that the impetus started with the faculty and staff taking responsibility for their own privilege, bias, and the systemic impacts of oppression on their students. Ownership permeated the school, impacting data systems, promoting the further disaggregation of discipline data, and detailed review of discipline terms and implicit norms to ensure representation and visibility of a wide array of cultures and ethnicities.