Director of Student Support Services Kersh Naidu and Moreland Hills Elementary School Principal Renee Tuttle are working on a multi-tiered plan to address the changing social and emotional needs of their students. Superintendent Lynn Campbell said that a plan is necessary to address a change in the student population and improve the school’s ability to address a wide range of behaviors.
About a year ago, Mrs. Tuttle and Dr. Naidu’s team began an assessment on how to meet the social and emotional needs of students through a continuum of services that progresses from least to more restrictive, depending on the needs of the child. Orange is now looking at more trauma-based practices and evidence-based techniques to support the students with the most needs.
“We, as well as many other schools, are seeing a large influx of young children with significant behavioral, emotional and mental health needs,” behavior coach and chair of special education grades K-2 Mary DiCarro said in a May 22 Zoom meeting. “We’re finding ourselves needing to be better equipped to support these students.”
Eight students could be considered for out-of-district placement for behavioral services, which could cost Orange $320,000 per year. Dr. Naidu said that the district’s philosophy is to keep children on campus as much as possible, so they are not excluded from an Orange education.
She said that they are working to expand the three-tier system that covers three areas of support. This includes a quick and agile response to students’ needs, the flexibility for students to move between placements depending on their progress and needs and a continued focus on trauma-informed instruction.
“When it comes to young kids, it is important to not pigeon-hole a child into that program, so they can’t easily move from a targeted classroom to an inclusive environment,” Dr. Naidu said. “If we have different placements within school buildings, we can easily move them based on the progress they are showing.”
Mrs. Tuttle said that the school currently has tier one in place, which is a well-established, positive behavioral interventions and supports framework known as PBIS. Teachers develop routines and expectations and students initiate responsibility in the classroom. The teachers use research-based strategies to lessen disruptive behaviors and reinforce the positive ones. She said that this is a proactive approach.
“We’re recognized by the state as a gold rated school, that’s the highest we can achieve,” Mrs. Tuttle said of the intervention program during a Board of Education meeting on May 26.
She explained that tier two focuses on connection space. It includes spaces where students can self-regulate their behavior through the use of “calm corners” in the classroom, which promote relaxation. Students’ breaks in the connection space are structured and they include calming activities to help them re-enter the classroom. The breaks could be structured into their schedule or used on an as-needed basis. Mrs. Tuttle said that targeted instruction also occurs in this setting to focus on coping skills and social thinking skills.
This year, about 100 staff members were trained in crisis prevention and intervention, Ms. DiCarro said.
Mrs. Tuttle said that the school needs to develop tier three of the social and emotional intervention framework. Dr. Naidu said that tier three would serve students who cannot be functional in a typical classroom despite intensive intervention. She said that students who get support in this program have exhibited behavior that would be unsafe or inappropriate in a typical classroom given the students’ needs.
In addition, Dr. Naidu said that this classroom would be therapeutic for students. She said that it is a structured social and emotional system with a curriculum to support academic and behavioral standards.
“The biggest support this has is for kids who are emotionally dysregulated,” Dr. Naidu said. She explained that children with emotional dysregulation are difficult to soothe when they get upset, they may have difficulty following expectations of a school environment and may distribute extreme tantrums.
The team includes Dr. Naidu, Mrs. Tuttle, Ms. DiCarro, guidance counselors Tina Raleigh and Lidia Frabotta and intervention specialists Missy Bunsey, Carrie DiLauro and Brad Anderson. Paraprofessional Maurice Weathers, Beech Brook social worker Anthony Hollins, special education interventionist Mary Weber and Moreland Hills Elementary School Assistant Principal Michael Brewer also served on the team with Dr. Naidu and Mrs. Tuttle.