Students in District 91 and kids throughout various Forest Park community spaces can cash in good deeds for special incentives with the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports Program.
PBIS, which began in the 2010-2011 school year, is an initiative that uses positive reinforcement to improve student behavior and school climate. The program varies between participating organizations, but mainly consists of students receiving tickets for positive behavior that they can trade for prizes.
“It’s a framework that supports student behavior, looking at improving their outcomes and using data,” said David Mekhiel, director of student services at District 91. “Some main goals are decreasing disciplinary infractions, antisocial behavior and aggressive behavior.”
According to Mekhiel, each school has a PBIS committee that meets monthly to discuss what is working and not working with the program. PBIS is part of a larger Multi-Tiered System of Support, aimed to provide academic and behavioral support strategies in schools.
The Forest Park Public Library also participates in PBIS, offering prizes like gift cards and free books to kids who demonstrate respectful and responsible behavior.
“For our space, it was a really amazing thing,” said Susan Farnum, the library’s representative on the community PBIS leadership team. “It reframed the adults’ behavior and the adults’ philosophies on things. It really helps us remember how important it is to meet the kids where they are and set them up for success.”
Farnum said she attended a PBIS training in order to learn about the program, knowledge which she then brought back to the library. Each new hire also undergoes a PBIS training when they come on board.
“It reminded me that adults sometimes need retraining about how they’re interacting with kids, and that it’s really important to be like looking out for the positive behaviors you see and not be so focused on catching people out,” Farnum said.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, PBIS has been less active in the library because their traffic has been different. But, the program has had lasting effects on other library practices.
“It really started putting us on a more restorative justice approach,” Farnum said. “That was why we started the community service option for kids who had gotten suspensions at the library, which I think was a really big step in the right direction.”
According to her, the library wants everyone to feel welcome in their space, and PBIS has helped create the culture to do so.
Mekhiel, who recently joined District 91, said he is hopeful for the future of PBIS and the potential impact it can have.
“As a new District administrator coming into the district, you always want to build upon anything that you can to support students,” Mekhiel said. “I’m very excited to see how high we can go.”