Monday June 3, 2024

Behavior Is Communication

Oklahoma City Public Schools accepts, welcomes and nurtures all kids. Kids who have special needs. Kids who have behavioral issues. Kids who have mental health issues. Kids who have experienced trauma. Kids who are English Language Learners. It is the responsibility of educators to find the best course to serve the whole child and see that behavior is communication. It is their responsibility to teach, re-teach and model positive behavior while creating a safe environment for all students.

Oklahoma City Public Schools serves a large number of kids (93% of the student population) who live in poverty and experience many adverse consequences including insecure living situations, food insecurity, inadequate access to health care and higher rates of exposure to violence and trauma. These circumstances have dramatic effects on students social and emotional health, cognitive development and behavior.

The OKCPS Board of Education adopted a Student Code of Conduct outlining a positive and proactive approach to student behavior. There is a great deal of positive and strategic work being done to serve the whole child and these comprehensive strategies are having results.

Using evidence-based methods to serve students, through PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports), providing school climate specialists at every school to support PBIS implementation, and providing restorative practices that focus on accountability, empathy and understanding instead of just punishment have resulted in keeping students in school 500 more days this school year alone.

This isn’t easy work and requires our educators to have not only a great deal of empathy and understanding, but a great deal of professional development and trauma informed training.

Oklahoma City Public Schools also has a high level of training for educators serving students with special needs. There is a multi-faceted and comprehensive approach to the training educators receive that follows federal and state law regarding individuals with disabilities. They are trained to recognize different disabilities and how to differentiate instruction and assessment based on the needs of the child. Behavior management and support plans coincide with this training to ensure a positive and safe environment exists.

Students have a variety of needs, and as already stated – behavior is communication. Simply suspending a student is NOT the answer. To state the obvious, we need our kids to stay in school and we need them to be as emotionally healthy as possible to ensure they are ready to learn. To think we can simply move the problems, whether by ignoring the pleas for help given by our children, or the continued degradation of public education is not solving anything, and our communities will suffer in the long run.

-Mary Mélon-Tully, President/CEO of The Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation

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