An Inside Look: The Heart of Positive Discipline Support Plan (PDSP)

College and Career Ready, Growth Mindset, Digital Literacy, Data-Driven Instruction, Rigor, Project Based Learning…  

We have all heard the buzzwords, but there is often one thing holding us back; the time and energy it takes to manage our classrooms.

The key to getting to all these great things lies in our ability to prevent disruptive behaviors in our schools and provide character education that puts value on being a responsible student. The Positive Discipline Support Plan (PDSP) is the next step in making this happen. Research has shown that the tiered systems that use school wide supports make a greater impact on behaviors than punitive discipline methods. 

The heart and soul of all discipline must be the best interests of each child combined with well-informed decisions to balance our obligation to provide safe, secure learning environments for all children. Each one of us is responsible for making sure that every child is at school every day receiving a first class education. The most effective classroom management, including discipline, is achieved when children know both schoolwide and classroom expectations, and receive meaningful instruction, one teacher at a time.  

You must understand that the greatest burden of leadership is to do the right thing because it’s the right thing. The right decision is not often the easiest or most popular solution. Different discipline decisions based on race, class, or gender are bad decisions. Inconsistent decisions compromise fairness, justice, and equality. Consistency is the watchword of fairness.

Let’s remember three fundamental beliefs:

  1. The purpose of all discipline is self-discipline.
  2. Each child is filled with infinite potential. Every child is unique and gifted and we need to build strengths based instruction to explore and celebrate their gifts and talents.
  3. Each one of us shares responsibility to empower each child with the knowledge, skills, character, and work ethic to achieve his or her American Dream. We have a moral obligation to end hopelessness among children of poverty and must share responsibility to end the school to prison pipeline.

At the impressionable age of 8 years old, “Anna Boone’s daughter” inscribed upon my mind the strong need to share egalitarian principles with all children, from those I taught and coached to those I lead as a Principal and those I was charged to protect and educate as a school superintendent and charter school management company owner. Each one of us has a sacred trust to make sure every child receives the best possible education. Our goal should be to make sure each of our students achieves and exceeds career and college ready goals, including social and emotional skills needed at the next level of education and in the workplace.  No matter how frustrated we become, our collective knowledge and caring best serves the educational and developmental needs of each child.

Traditional Discipline has grown and matured into the Positive Discipline Support Plan or PDSP for short.  

PDSP is now a component of our character education program, Character Choices. PDSP is a Response to Intervention based discipline system that redirects the traditional discipline model from being punitive to becoming a constructive, character building, social skills based program.

Allow me to share an anecdote from the day I realized we had to rewrite traditional discipline to be a RtI-based program that saves our children, rather than sustaining traditional discipline that devolved toward punitive decisions.  A parent at one of our high at-risk PK-8 schools appealed a suspension decision to me.  I spent a day trying to answer why I was troubled by the “routine” suspension “for shoving and hitting.” I admit that I got in my car, drove to Benton Harbor, “took” the Ruby Payne Understanding Poverty CD from the Principal’s Office, and left. As I drove to Detroit, I listened to the CD, smiled, and handled the discipline appeal with confidence and understanding for the plight of both the teacher and the child. And most importantly, we were able to get the student back in the classroom immediately.  

I needed a refresher course in educating (including disciplining) children of poverty. I then invited and met with every parent who complained to the Board of Directors and who called my office from February to June 2015 that chose to meet with me. I got an earful, learned a lot, and started rewriting our discipline model with five “ghost” critiquers. The result is Positive Discipline Support Plan. Kristin Molyneux was my writing partner in converting all of the ideas into PDSP and to merging it with the Character Choices program. Chris Ruiter is now our champion of implementation and PDSP leadership.  

Nothing important has changed.  

Consistency still breeds fairness. Discipline needs to be consistent, firm, and fair. The child who wants an education is to receive a first class education free of disruption and free of fear. Each school leader is expected to demonstrate knowledge of the PDSP model, including processes, practices, and attitudes through their actions and decisions to meet the needs of students. Each teacher is expected to have a classroom management plan, including cooperatively developed classroom rules, and to make classroom management decisions with the PDSP. All children are expected to use good social skills and when they don’t, our job is to teach, and help them learn responsible behavior & good social skills.  Parents are our most important partners. Each of us has the responsibility to be a role model for all children, our peers, and the community.

What has changed is our focus. 

Previously, suspensions were our first line of correction, now we look for alternatives to suspension and use individual student discipline plans. These plans outline corrective actions that develop responsible behavior and good social skills. Punitive practices are now replaced by comprehensive opportunities to prevent each child from losing his or her right to an education while providing them the tools to make it beyond the classroom.    

Parents send us the best children they have and each parent expects the best that we have for their child. Our job is to deliver a highly effective education for every child in a safe, secure learning environment. To do that, we must understand children of poverty, we must not allow microaggressions in our classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, play areas, and bathrooms or in our interactions, and we must be the source of security for every child entrusted to us.  

Each one of us is important to our children. Parents are our most important partner in fulfilling our obligation to maximize the education provided all children through academic results. Equal to providing academic excellence is protecting the safety and security of our students and employees. We’re up to the charge to integrate the interests of society with our emphasis on academic achievement.  

Thank you for accepting this responsibility with me.