Rewarding children at an early age for good behavior is easier than trying to re-teach social skills at the middle-school level, said Elementary District 91 Superintendent Louis Cavallo.

The district’s PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) program tries to remind children from the earliest years how it looks to follow the “three B’s”: Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Safe. D91 students have grown up for four years now with the vocabulary and social skills taught by the PBIS program. 

Suggested to the school district by the village, the program has also been about extending good behaviors learned in the schools to other parts of the community. The district has worked with the library, police department, park district and community center to make sure other institutions that deal with school children have the tools and vocabulary to help the PBIS behaviors stick outside of school. 

Cavallo told the school board at their Dec. 12 meeting the district is now extending the program to local businesses where school children hang out. And what better place to find children than a comic book shop? 

The district held an introductory meeting with the owners of Defiant Comics, Brian Fisher and Don Wasilevich, to talk about how PBIS could look in the business world. 

Wasilevich already had two children in D91 schools, so the concepts of PBIS were familiar: Establish a set of teachable expectations. Spell out behavior expectations to children, don’t wait and only react when they do something wrong. Teach, practice and positively reinforce good behavior and manners. Bring services and resources to children who act out in antisocial ways. Collect data to quantify where the changes are working and where more work is needed.

PBIS is meant to create a more cooperative culture in the schools. The Forest Park school district has become nationally recognized as a district where PBIS is working, Cavallo told the board. 

Now that the library, parks, community center and police are on board, the district is getting the word out to local businesses. 

“We don’t want to tell businesses how to do PBIS in the stores,” said Rachell Entler of the park district, who coordinates the program at the parks. She said the PBIS committee brainstormed with Defiant owners about how the “Three B” behavior might be reinforced in a merchant setting.

“We use lots of posters at the park,” Entler said. 

The group discussed poster ideas for the comic book store, Fisher said. One area that came to mind was a play area in the shop for children while their parents shop. 

“We talked about ways we could make posters for the store,” said co-owner Fisher, who added one behavior that frustrates them is students taking comic books off the shelf and not replacing them. 

“A way to incorporate ‘be responsible’ for kids was putting the comic books away, and straightening up the toy area when they’re finished,” said Fisher, who hopes to work with the district to create posters that advise children in a positive way to put comic books back on the shelves.

Fisher said children, tweens and teens come into the store often. In the younger grades, girls gravitate to the My Little Pony comic books and boys are picking out the re-make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics. Older comic readers (mostly boys) are drawn to the Marvel Comic antihero Deadpool.

Rewards for good behavior are given to the students at school on an individual basis (such as the “Shark Bite” coupons at Field-Stevenson) and as a group with special assemblies.

Fisher said he’s interested in hammering out how businesses could give rewards to children who demonstrate good behavior around town. 

“We’re very interested in developing the cross-marketing that could come from a ‘currency’ of tickets for a rewards program,” he said.

Cavallo said other businesses where children congregate are invited to attend the PBIS committee monthly meeting on the second Tuesdays of the month at the D91 administration building. 

It’s all part of building social skills for students that will carry over into their lives outside of school, Cavallo said.

“Don’t expect good behaviors — define and teach them,” he said. Seeing PBIS referred to on posters at Forest Park businesses will “act as a trigger,” Cavallo said. 

“Children can draw on past knowledge and maybe they’ll put the comic book back where they found it,” he said.

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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