New program focuses on positive behavior in Toledo schools


Toledo Public Schools is implementing a district-wide positive behavior program meant to reduce discipline rates.

Called Positive Behavior Intervention Supports, the system is being piloted at six TPS schools this year, with the intent for every building to eventually adopt the program. The system is meant to improve school climates, reinforce positive behavior, and teach appropriate action to students. It's a preventative approach to discipline, rather than reactionary.

Every classroom in every school would have the same expectations, and students would be taught the values around those expectations, Assistant Superintendent Brian Murphy said at a news conference today.

"The hope would be that we would see a reduction in behavior issues," he said.

The move is a victory of sorts for Toledoans United for Social Action, a group of two dozen church congregations that works to address injustices in jobs, safety, youth, and education. The group has pushed TPS for years to alter its discipline approach, as minority students are disciplined at higher rates than white students, and are arrested at TPS schools much more frequently. 

The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio launched an inquiry last year into allegations of "significant racial disparities" in student discipline at TPS.

District officials have previously acknowledged the discipline disparities, but have also noted their first priority is safety in the classrooms; simply being less stringent wasn't an answer. The PBIS system is the district's attempt to address discipline problems at their root, reducing actual incidences of misbehavior and thus suspensions and expulsions.