Suspensions are down in District 91 and administrators remain hopeful that schools are taking steps in the right direction towards improving classroom behaviors.

At the Forest Park School District 91 board of education meeting on May 8, the board heard about the most recent Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS) data for this year. PBIS is a national system adopted in 2010 by the district to enforce positive student behaviors and take the necessary disciplinary steps early on to combat poor classroom conduct. 

The subject of unruly behavior, especially at the Forest Park Middle School was brought up at the April State of the District address by Village Commissioner Mark Hosty, who asked D91 Superintendent Louis Cavallo if teachers were “underreporting” poor behavior in the classrooms to “get the numbers down.”

At the Cavallo vigorously denied that the data were being manipulated.

“When I got to this district there were fights,” he said at the time. “We’ve had fights decrease significantly. Serious problems like weapons, drugs and alcohol — we don’t have any suspensions [for those problems] because we don’t have it.” 

The board got the hard data for this year, presented by teacher and social worker Michelle Washington. Washington outlined a year in review of PBIS data in all district schools. She focused on comparing total referral data between 2013 and 2014 and detailed the top referrals for both Forest Park Middle School and the four feeder elementary schools in the district.

Overall, the PBIS data was statistically somewhat flat. 

“I think this might be the plateau year because this year is not much different from last year,” Washington said.

The school board noted that the percentages of students within the three tiers of disciplinary action were within the desired range. The top referrals in the district were minor behavior infractions including disrespect and defiance. While the number of students in the district increased from 855 to 904 since last year, the percentages of students with referrals remained the same. As of April 28, the total number of district referrals was 957, with FPMS having 49 percent, Field-Stevenson with 24 percent, Garfield with 12 percent, Grant-White with 9 percent and Betsy Ross with 6 percent.

For the year in review, Washington explained that this school year, all Forest Park schools have implemented PBIS and taken active measures towards curbing negative student behaviors both inside and outside the classroom. Social workers in the district have been trained in PBIS and faculty members continue to encourage parents to continue instilling disciplinary measures and guidelines for respect at home. 

The district has been spotlighted nationally as a school district that has adopted PBIS techniques and spread them to the community.

District 91 Superintendent Louis Cavallo remarked that while he would like for the number of infractions to come down, he is pleased with the progress that PBIS seems to have within the district. Cavallo said that compared to other area schools, District 91 seems to be faring well when it comes to students and the number of referrals and suspensions they have. 

 “If I were to look at this data from any other schools, I’d be thrilled,” he said. 

Regarding suspension changes from 2013 and 2014, there was a 15 percent reduction in students receiving in-school suspensions but no change in students receiving out of school suspensions. There was a 33.3 percent reduction in days of in-school suspensions and a 3.8 percent increase in days of out of school suspensions. 

This year, the top three suspensions were 15 for fighting, 12 for physical aggression and 11 for inappropriate language. However, this year there was a 15 percent reduction in events leading to suspension.

At the end of the presentation, Washington said that the district is looking to maintain and enhance the PBIS system in order to continue to reduce suspensions and referrals. Even though there were still a significant number of suspensions in the district, Cavallo remains confident that PBIS has only begun to show its true potential. He believes that over time, students will only grow more receptive towards PBIS measures.

“You can’t just expect the [good] behavior, you have to teach them,” Cavallo said. 

The school board also discussed measures that can be taken in the future to ensure that teachers at all schools in the district remain consistent with reporting disciplinary action and manage behaviors similarly in order to have the most effective results. While the board hopes parents can enforce PBIS measures in the home, they said that any PBIS parent meetings in the past have had low turnouts. 

The board also mentioned that in order to continue developing a strong PBIS system, the community as a whole has to work together to reinforce discipline in public places such as parks and the library. 

School board member Heather Cianciolo stated that she has seen library employees reminding students of respectful behaviors and reminds students herself when in public parks.