Behavior Intervention Plans
Essential Themes that Add up to Adequacy
Susan Etscheidt of the University of Northern Iowa reviewed
800 due process, district court and appellate court decisions
that were decided between 1997 and 2005 and contained the
term BIP (Behavior Intervention Plan).
That case review yielded 52 published decisions in which the
adequacy of the Positive Behavior Intervention Plan was a
reports that five themes emerged from her research. Each provides
important information that advocates and parents need to take
into consideration as they work together to plan effective
behavioral interventions on behalf of students with disabilities.
A Positive Behavior Intervention Plan must be developed
when a student’s behavior interferes with learning.
Seventeen of the reviewed cases concerned the failure of
IEP teams to develop positive BIPs for students with a variety
of significant behavior problems. In the majority of the
cases, the school districts were aware of the needs but
still did not take steps to address serious behaviors that
could be dangerous or long standing issues with school attendance
that interfered with educational success. Parents prevailed
in sixteen of the seventeen cases.
School districts ran into difficulty trying to substitute
informal BIPs, social skills programs or student contracts
for a fully developed positive BIP. Districts were also
confused about when to develop a BIP, one
maintaining that a student who had not been suspended or
removed from his program for more than ten days did not
require a BIP, despite a very high frequency of disciplinary
actions over a seven month period.
serious issue raised in several cases was the attempt to
move students to a more restrictive placements
rather than developing a positive BIP that would be sufficient
to meet the students’ needs in a less restrictive
school setting. In these cases, outcomes for parents were
mixed – one hearing denied placement in a private
school, but in several cases, districts were ordered to
either engage a certified behavior analyst to evaluate and
develop a BIP and IEP or private school placement and tuition
A Positive Behavior Intervention Plan must be based on recent
and meaningful assessment data.
Decisions in these cases established that school districts
must base student behavior plans on data that is gathered
from evaluations that are properly conducted and interpreted.
When districts were able to demonstrate that they used recent
and professionally developed data, they prevailed in several
decisions even though the students in question were not
necessarily responding positively to the BIP.
the other hand, districts were not successful in defending
observations, or the development of a positive BIP without
the use of a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA).
A Positive Behavior Intervention Plan must be individualized
to meet the student’s unique needs. School
districts were not successful in arguing cases where they
had substituted a behavior management system used to manage
the entire classroom, group counseling sessions, or a restrictive
program addressing students with behavior problems for the
development of an individualized BIP.
A Positive Behavior Intervention Plan must Include positive
behavior Strategies and supports.
The kinds of intervention strategies developed for students
was also a focus of another sixteen of the cases reviewed.
Districts were successful in responding to parent complaints
when the positive BIPs contained a variety of individualized,
positive and student focused strategies. Strategies that
were specifically mentioned in decisions included environmental
alterations, alternative skill instruction, cooling off
periods, curricular modifications and frequent contact with
parents and professionals working with the student outside
of school. Plans that included punishment and discipline,
shorter school days, excessive use of time-out and isolation
as primary interventions were seen as contributing to students’
lack of academic progress and negative self-image.
districts that attempted to substitute punishments, manipulation
of the student’s school day by requiring parents to
take student home, adult escorts in the school building,
or use of restraints for properly developed BIPs did not
prevail in hearings. In these cases, parents were successful
in receiving compensatory education or districts were ordered
to provide meaningful assessments and detailed positive
BIPs based on extensive data collection through the implementation
of a proper FBA. School district use of a basket hold or
restraints in crisis situations was supported in the decisions
reviewed, even though it was not a positive intervention.
is also interesting to note that school districts were not
successful in substituting IEP goals and objectives for
positive behavior intervention strategies!
A Positive Behavior Intervention Plan must be implemented
as planned and effects must be monitored.
In the nine cases addressing implementation and monitoring,
school districts were successful when they could demonstrate
that they made a good faith effort to implement complicated
plans, and that suspending a student from school was not
necessarily a deviation from a BIP and was consistent with
the provisions of IDEA. In those cases, parents were not
successful in arguing that any punishment of their child
was not allowed because of their disability and the fact
that suspension deviated from the BIP.
two more extreme cases, school districts were successful
in arguing that contacting the police was permitted to restore
order or to escort a student to a safe place.
were successful in those cases where a BIP was simply not
implemented at all, when the BIP was clearly inadequate
and behavior of the student was bringing about more serious
consequences, when staff was not trained to implement the
plan, and the plan was not updated by the IEP team as needed.
general, parents do not frequently prevail in due process
proceedings. These research findings suggest that parents
have prevailed in a remarkable number of the cases reviewed
districts failed to act despite clear evidence that a student’s
behavior was a significant barrier to their learning;
districts recognized a student’s need for intervention,
but substituted group counseling, classroom-wide behavior
modification programs, IEP goals, suspension, and more restrictive
school days or programs for a Functional Behavior Assessment
and the development of an individualized BIP.
districts could not demonstrate that their actions were
based on current and adequate data, individualized to the
student in need of intervention and utilized good professional
information is particularly useful and important given the
new IDEA requirement that whether a student has received FAPE
is to be decided based on substantive grounds and that procedural
violations must meet a new high standard to be included in
hearing decisions: 34 CFR 300.513 (a) Decision of Hearing
Officer on the provision of FAPE, (1)(2) and (3).
is the responsibility of the school district and each child’s
IEP Team to ensure that when behaviors are impeding that child’s
ability to learn and to be successful in their academic, social
and communication development, a proactive course of action
is taken on behalf of that child. Unfortunately, The Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has given little guidance
as to what the standards should be for the collection of data
and the development and implementation of a Positive Behavior
Etscheidt’s research offers five sets of information
about how hearing officers and courts have evaluated the efforts
of school districts to address student behavior through the
positive Behavior Intervention Plan. It is useful, of course,
to know and understand where school districts have failed
in meeting procedural requirements under IDEA. More important,
are the discussions that are closely related to the best practices
advocates and parents should require of the school staff when
considering interventions for a particular student. We can
be hopeful in concluding that hearing officers and courts
have taken seriously the quality of the positive BIPs developed
for students, as well as issues of when they are needed and
how they are to be developed, implemented and monitored.
Research: Behavioral Intervention Plans: Pedagogical
and Legal Analysis of Issues. Susan Etscheidt, Department
of Special Education, University of Northern Iowa. Published
in Behavioral Disorders, 31(2), 223-243