Trigg County Public Schools is embracing a new approach that focuses on improving the behavioral and mental health of its students in an effort to impact their performance at school.
“If we get behavior and mental health under control, we should see an increase in student achievement,” James Mangels, the district’s director of student services and personnel, told school board members during their Nov. 10 meeting in the district office conference room.
The director shared discipline data from the first quarter of the 2022-23 school year, noting that there were 31 incidents occurring at Trigg County Primary School through Oct. 7, with 55% of those due to disrespectful behavior.
At Trigg County Intermediate School, 39% of 31 incidents was due to disrespectful behavior, he said, while at Trigg County Middle School there were 108 incidents. Twenty-four of those 108 incidents were due to disorderly conduct.
Additionally, among 54 disciplinary incidents at Trigg County High School, 32 students or 5% of the TCHS student population accounted for those 54 incidents and 44% of the incidents were due to disrespectful or disruptive behavior.
In the first weeks of school, Mangels said the district has seen several drug-related incidents, two terroristic threatenings and an assault.
Citing past success at the middle school with a framework known as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), Mangels said the local district began reconnecting with that framework last year at Trigg Middle and has now applied to be part of a PBIS cohort.
PBIS provides an evidence-based, tiered approach to supporting students’ behavioral, academic, social, emotional and mental health, according to details on its website at pbis.org.
Mangels noted that the district wants to be more involved in managing behavioral health.
“We really believe that in order for students to kind of be recognized and to teach the behavior under Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, there may be some things we can do to support students and their case plans in our classrooms,” he said, pointing out educators spend the most time with kids in the classroom.
Mangels said district staff took part in a readiness meeting to see if they “were ready to take on this challenge,” the director said.
He noted that three district staff, including himself, Special Education Director Mandy Byrd and Katie Grimm, school psychologist, were trained as district coaches for the PBIS effort.
The school district has also created a committee that includes partners from the school system and outside organizations.
Members of that district interconnected systems framework committee are counselor Alaysia Radford, George Radford of Genesis Express, parent representative Andrew Futrell, school resource officer Shawn Young, Horizon Youth Service Center Coordinator Laura Shelton, Sharon Alexander of Mountain Comprehensive Care, the three district coaches and Karen Solise, who is the school district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
Mangels said the committee will analyze school data, identify problems and brainstorm ways to provide interventions around social, emotional and behavioral supports.
He said school staff will provide the interventions with support of the coaches; the three coaches will ensure that the interventions are carried out in each of the school buildings.
The student services director noted that behavioral health and mental health in the past were approached separately from positive behavioral interventions and supports, and he said this new approach encourages positive interventions along with mental health and behavioral health under one “big umbrella.”
Mangels said interventions implemented through the PBIS framework’s Tier 1 should “catch 80% of students in that safety net.”
He noted that 10% to 15% of students may need a more intensive approach at Tier 2, while 5% of youth may need really intensive work.
Mangels said he really believes in PBIS, in the interconnected framework and in collaborating with other services and staff to create a supportive environment for the youth.
“(There are) some really good things that are occurring,” he said of recent efforts in the district.