Past Press Release May 2013

School-based approaches effective for children with disabilities and benefit all children, lawmakers learn

For Immediate ReleaseMary Gile Reads the Proclamation
May 1, 2013
Bonnie Dunham, Chairperson of Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC), 224-7005 Ext. 123
Maureen Tracey, Chairperson of SAC Subcommittee on Unmet Needs of Children with Emotional/Behavioral Needs, 228-2084 Ext. 18
Richard A. Cohen, Esq., Executive Director, Disabilities Rights Center, and member of the SAC (603) 228-0432

CONCORD _ Dozens of lawmakers gathered today to learn more about effective programs in New Hampshire that help children facing emotional and behavioral challenges.

The event, Achieving School Success for Every Child: Recognizing Innovative Systems of Supports, was hosted by the Statewide Advisory Committee (SAC) and co-hosted and sponsored by multiple legislators and organizations seeking to educate lawmakers on proven practices in schools.

Positive school-wide approaches have been shown to be effective ways to address children’s behavioral health needs and to improve the education environment for all students. These proven, evidence-based practices include Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Systems of Care.

Dan Habib, the award winning filmmaker of Who Cares About Kelsey?, led the discussion.

“Many schools still use ‘zero tolerance’ policies to try to control student behavior,” he said.  “But there is no research to support zero tolerance, ‘three strikes you’re out’ or similar approaches.  In fact, evidence shows that those approaches simply drive a lot of kids to drop out of school and into the juvenile justice system.  Today is about sharing innovative educational approaches that help all kids find a path to graduation.  Thankfully many schools in New Hampshire are using these approaches.  But we hope today will be a catalyst to scale up approaches like PBIS or RENEW throughout the state.”

John Fabrizio, Director of Special Services for Merrimack School District and former principal at James Mastricola Elementary School, shared his experiences with PBIS in the Merrimack School District.

“From the beginning of implementation of PBIS, we saw disciplinary referrals go from 623 down to 101 over the past three years. Each referral takes an administrator from a half to three hours. We gained almost 1000 hours a year of personnel time to build curriculum and school community. Teachers were able to concentrate their energy on teaching. If you don’t have consistent expectations, you spend a lot of time focusing on reactive discipline rather than proactive teaching of skills.”

Merrimack School District has been implementing PBIS for the past several years in selected schools. Student behavioral expectations are clear and understood by all, including “the Big Three” – respect, responsibility, and safety. The emphasis is on positive expectations and supports. For example, at Mastricola Elementary the “Gotcha” program catches students going above and beyond expectations and rewards them with a “thumbs up” sticker.

With the crisis in mental health today, schools cannot afford to gamble with our children’s futures by using methods that are outdated or even harmful. Proven and effective school-wide approaches help all children and are cost effective. PBIS has been shown to keep children in school, increase graduation rates, and reduce school violence,

The New Hampshire Children’s Behavioral Health Strategic Plan calls for legislative action to help implement and sustain multi-tiered systems of supports, such as PBIS, in schools in New Hampshire; and to develop a statewide system of care so that agencies will work together to serve children with emotional and behavioral needs.

Representative Mary Gile, Chair of the House Education Committee, was one of the main hosts of the event and read the  proclamation that Governor Hassan signed today, declaring May 1 “Achieving School Success for Every Child Day in New Hampshire”.

“New Hampshire has to work hard to make sure that all our children have access to a high quality education, the encouragement of parents, and the support of their children, especially those with special learning needs,” she said.