Bridging Behavior

Each month, school administrators around the district report to the South Lane School Board, notifying them of changes, progress and struggles individual schools have. This month, it was Bohemia Elementary’s turn and principal Heather Bridgens was prepared.

She showed the board a photograph from 1992.

Then she started picking out the changes.

If the photo were to represent the same grade-school classroom in 2018, it would be missing one of two of the adults pictured. There would be six more students. Four of those students would be English Language Learners, meaning they spoke one of the four languages Bohemia encounters in their student population that isn’t English.

Twenty of the 27 students in the photograph would be living in poverty and six would have behavioral issues; four would need a behavioral chart monitored by their teachers and two would have disruptive behavior.

And while children who were in that photograph from 1992 are well into their 20s now, Bridgens told the board that it was much closer to today than they thought.

“In the trajectory of education, it’s not that long ago,” she said.

Bridgens and Bohemia aren’t alone when it comes to an increase in factors that make learning more difficult for students. Schools across the nation have reported an increase in behavioral issues and the Centers for Disease Control reported that as of 2016, 6.1 million children between the ages of two and 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD. Its most recent data showed that one in 59 fell on the autism spectrum.

However, not every behavioral issue found in the classroom can be traced back to a medical diagnosis.

Children are also facing obstacles like poverty at increasing rates.

A 2017 report from the Oregon Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization that issues grants and scholarships throughout the state, noted that 47 percent of children in Oregon were from low-income families. Put another way, in 2017, one in five Oregon children was living in poverty, according to the report.

The increase in the factors that contribute to behavioral issues in the classroom coincides with shrinking budgets that lead to fewer resources at local schools with teachers doing more with what they have.

And what they have at Bohemia is a positive attitude.

“I know you can do it, I believe in you,” is the most common phrase heard throughout the day, according to Bridgens and it encompasses a district approach to a multi-faceted problem.

“This is what drives our behavior program in the district and not just our district but all across Oregon. PBIS: Positive Behavior Intervention Supports,” said Chad Hamilton, South Lane Special Services Coordinator.

The idea was developed by Dr. Rob Horner at the University of Oregon.

“It’s really well respected, well researched and the way we look at it is in terms of a pyramid,” Hamilton said. “And we look at this not just for behavior but for also for academics and we have something we call universal interventions which are for all kids. And that usually gets 80 percent to 90 percent of all kids. And those interventions are just enough for a variety of kids. Some kids need a little bit more. Five to 10 percent, that’s some more targeted interventions.”

According to Hamilton, the most “explosive” behaviors are concentrated in about five percent of the student population.

At Bohemia, Room One serves as a resource for students to provide the time and attention that five percent of the population may need to continue with their day.

At the May 7 school board meeting, Bridgens told board members that she’s often the one who steps in to handle chil- dren who need extra attention throughout the day.

"Room One is like other classrooms at Bohemia Elementary and in South Lane School District. We provide a level of service to students, whether academic, emotional or social, that meets student needs. There are fewer students in the classroom which helps students monitor their own progress, receive consistent feedback from adults and build on their successes. Room One helps students build the skills that they need to be successful in school," Bridgens said.

Lincoln Middle School utilizes the Bridge program, a self-contained program compromised of two classrooms made up of approximately 12 students each.

“With the name bridge program was purposely chosen because it’s meant as a bridge back into the general education curriculum. It’s not a place we want kids to be for their whole school careers,” Hamilton said.

There’s not a Room One or Bridge program in every school in South Lane, but there is South Lane Mental Health. Each school in the district has a counselor presence on campus to help students and teachers navigate mental health issues that may occur throughout the day.

“Some buildings there is someone there twice a week, sometime once a week, sometimes three times a week based on resources and need at that specific system. So, that’s another universal intervention,” Hamilton said.

“Anyone can access that. Because sometimes the behaviors that go unnoticed are those internalizing. Kids that are just wound up with anxiety for instance. They may not, you may not see that in the classroom but it’s eating inside them. So, we need to address all kids not just their mental health status.”

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