Reaching Consensus About Behavioral Expectations in Schools (page 3)

By — Stop Bullying Now!
Updated on Jan 8, 2009

Meeting three:

Between the second and third meeting, the administrator or team rewrites the disputed behavior descriptions if they seem unclear or mixed. In the example given above, they would list six types of low level name-calling, preparing to ask the staff for a repeat rating of each. If the behavior descriptions are clear, the team would prepare to have (for example) K-2 teachers and 3-6 teachers rate the disputed behaviors separately. In many schools the same behaviors will be on the school’s YELLOW list for grades K-2 and on the RED list for grades 3-6, because younger children are still learning about social expectations that older students understand.

When we are finished with this process, we have three lists of peer-to-peer aggressive behaviors:

  • A RED list of behaviors which all staff commit to report to the principal.
  • A YELLOW list of behaviors which staff commit to dealing with in the moment when they happen. Staff members may want to use their own strategies ranging from a request to stop through consequences for dealing with these behaviors. When staff become aware that a student is exhibiting one of these behaviors habitually they will report that pattern to the principal for action.
  • And a GREEN list of behaviors that staff will not usually intervene with. Behaviors that some staff rate as YELLOW and some staff rate as GREEN should also be on the school’s GREEN list for the present. This decision can be reviewed later. It is advisable to put these divided behaviors on the GREEN list to avoid telling students and the community that the school will deal with a behavior and then having that behavior ignored by many staff.

Once the rating process is done, the items on the RED list become the behaviors that will be reflected in the school’s aggressive behavior rubric. The Bullying Prevention Team or Administrator should sort those RED behaviors into three categories based on the likelihood of harm to the target, and create an escalating list of consequences to go with each category. Consequences for repeated use of YELLOW level behaviors might also be integrated into this rubric. The rubric can address retaliation against other students for telling staff about aggressive behavior, and should also address how the school will deal with very severe aggressive behaviors and with those behaviors defined as harassment under state and federal law. In setting up consequences, remember that small, escalating, and inevitable consequences are often more effective than large ones which may not always be available or appropriate. For more information about behavior rubrics and effective use of consequences, see my book Schools Where Everyone Belongs.

Creating a staff-wide consensus about which behaviors to report to the principal, which behaviors staff will deal with themselves, and which behaviors we see as acceptable even if the targets of those behaviors do not like them will help the school react to reports of aggressive behavior more consistently. I recommend that this rating process be repeated annually, with parent and student input, to help staff maintain consistency in dealing with aggressive behaviors.

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