WCSD PBIS: Community is Strength

Volume Seven: Fall 2019 - (for all Whittier City SD staff)

California PBIS Coalition Again Showers Whittier City Schools With Gold & Silver!!!

For the fourth year in a row, Whittier City Schools have been recognized by the California PBIS Coalition for excellence in implementing core PBIS features at both the Tier 1 and Tier 2 levels. SIX of our schools achieved GOLD level status for their Tier 2 program, twice as many as last year!

  • Gold Award Winners: Andrews, Edwards, Longfellow, Mill, Phelan, & West Whittier
  • Silver Award Winners: Dexter, Hoover, Jackson, Orange Grove, Sorensen

The awards reflect 70-100% fidelity of national implementation standards, and proof of impact as evidenced by at least 80% of students following matrix expectations. At the Gold level, schools must also provide evidence of 1) upward trends in academic data over the previous three years, 2) evidence of low suspension rates, and 3) evidence of targeted social-emotional interventions with progress monitoring.

Schools must reapply each year, reflecting the PBIS core practice of teaching behavior as relentlessly as we teach academics, and with frequent checks on fidelity. Schools will be acknowledged at the annual CPC Conference in Sacramento in October, and listed on the coalition's website.

CONGRATULATIONS to all of our schools for their enduring commitment to schools that are welcoming, safe, positive, and focused on the whole child!

Also in this edition of the newsletter...

  • There is Hope - Doing what is within our power to prevent tragedy
  • Community building ideas
  • 12 ways teachers can build resilience in themselves
  • Thinking differently about children's' challenging behavior
  • The Student Wellness Program Timeline
  • Resources for teaching Second Step social emotional learning curriculum

There is hope - Doing what is within our power to prevent tragedy

There is no "getting used to" mass shootings in our communities. Each one wounds our sense of safety and feeds the kernels of helplessness within our hearts.

And yet, we might not be so helpless after all. An in-depth two-year study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice found four commonalities among the perpetrators of nearly all the mass shootings studied, and there is good news about the ability of schools to impact some of them:

1. The vast majority of mass shooters experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. The trauma was often a precursor to mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, thought disorders or suicidality.

2. Practically every mass shooter had reached an identifiable crisis point in the weeks or months leading up to the shooting. Changes in job status, relationship rejection or loss often played a role. Such crises were, in many cases, communicated to others through a marked change in behavior, an expression of suicidal thoughts or plans, or specific threats of violence. The vast majority of mass shooters leak their plans ahead of time.

3. Societal fear and fascination with mass shootings partly drives the motivation to commit them. Hence, mass shootings tend to come in clusters. They are socially contagious.

4. The shooters all had the means to carry out their plans.


The authors of the study suggest that instead of simply rehearsing for the inevitable, we need to use that data to drive effective prevention strategies. While some strategies are beyond the control of schools, we already know how to do some of them. In fact, we already are.

Proactive violence prevention starts with conversations about mental health and establishing systems for identifying individuals in crisis, reporting concerns and reaching out — not with punitive measures but with resources and long-term intervention. Everyone should be trained to recognize the signs of a crisis.

Responding to the traumas in early life by providing access to social services and high-quality, affordable mental health treatment in the community. School counselors and social workers, employee wellness programs, projects that teach resilience and social emotional learning help promote the social and emotional success of all Americans.

Promoting and supporting healthy relationships between and among students and staff nurtures a culture of taking care of each other and trusting each other enough to ask for help - and offer it - when needed.


We can do our part by leaning into our systems to provide safe, caring, and predictable schools, integrating social emotional learning into all that we teach and do in schools, and continuing to build our targeted intervention programs. Students learn most deeply when the important adults around them model appropriate behavior.

Look for resources below, in previous and future newsletters, and tour our Whittier City PBIS & MTSS Google Site.

Use the link below to read the item in the Los Angeles Times

"Op-Ed: We have studied every mass shooting since 1966. Here’s what we’ve learned about the shooters," By Jillian Peterson and James Densley; Los Angeles Times, Aug. 4, 2019

Sampler of Trauma-Informed Practices

WCSD Student Wellness Program: Year Two

With a solid Tier 1 foundation based on PBIS core practices of explicit teaching and reinforcement of expected student behaviors, positive relationships, and trauma-sensitive logical consequences, Whittier City is building Tier 2 supports for those students who need more.

The positive impact of the initial launch last school year was reflected in a significant decrease in suicide-threat assessments last year when compared to prior years (view the graph in the "Wellness Matters!" edition of this newsletter). Prevention and early intervention works.

Wellness Program Key Components:

Fall trimester

  • Early identification of needs by conducting walk-throughs of Kinder & 1st grade classrooms
  • Universal screen for social-behavior-attendance-academic risk
  • Second Step social emotional learning curriculum in every TK-2nd grade classroom and at least one classroom per grade level for all other grades. School social workers and interns provide co-teaching and consultant support.
  • Tier 2 teams review referrals and universal screening information to match students to interventions and monitor progress throughout the year
  • Check-In-Check-Out as the main Tier 2 intervention and vehicle for data collection
  • Targeted Small group counseling to teach social skills and coping strategies
  • RTI reading intervention programs across the grades; Information letters and progress monitoring reports keep parents informed.

The graphic below illustrates the timeline:

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Second Step® Curriculum For Social Emotional Learning

Second Step Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) gives students the tools to excel in and out of the classroom. Even the most challenging students make progress in emotion management, situational awareness, and academic achievement (11% increase in test scores, on average). Second Step’s age-appropriate games, activities, and media engage students and set children on a path to lifelong success.

Teacher-led lessons are the MOST effective!

A 2011 study found that students learn social emotional skills more deeply and apply the skills in more settings when lessons are led by the classroom teacher instead of an outside trainer (Durlak, et.al. 2011).

NO FORMAL TRAINING IS REQUIRED!! The secondstep.org website is rich with resources including sample lessons, video demonstrations, and free on-demand training webinars as brief as 30 minutes - perfect for a grade level team meeting.

Once you activate your kit and create a user account, even more resources are available for your specific grade level including video previews of lessons and supplemental teaching video vignettes and activities. Activation codes are located in the first pages of each kit.

  • Ready-to-go scripted lessons on the five core SEL competencies of self awareness (identifying emotions), self-management (focus, impulse control, how to calm down), social awareness (empathy), relationship skills, and conflict resolution and decision making.
  • Home links so parents can support the skills at home and in the community. The homelinks can be shared with parents via Sangha so no photocopying is required. Materials are available in English and Spanish.
  • Lessons are designed to be used "out of the box" with minimal, if any, prep. Once a classroom kit is activated on the Second Step website, video content can be streamed.

District Support:

  • Our elementary School Social Workers and counselors are available to get classrooms started with Second Step lessons
  • For ease of access, we have created a single user account with a compilation of most grade level documents and video content. Email pbis@whittiercity.net for the login credentials.
  • Kits were purchased for every TK through 2nd grade classroom last fall (2018), and one kit per grade level through 8th grade was purchased the year before.
Big picture
Pinterest board about Calm Down Areas in the classroom

Whether you call it a Peace Corner, Alaska (a place to chill out), Zen Zone, or a Break Room, find ideas for sensory tools, resourceful uses of small spaces, calm down tool kits, and more.

Follow my Pinterest board about Caring School Climates

Ideas for building community with and among students and creating positive and supportive environments on campus

Follow my pinterest board about Classroom Strategies

Tips on classroom management and student engagement techniques

WCSD PBIS Newsletter Archive

Each newsletter has

  • videos
  • summaries of relevant articles and blog posts
  • links to resources for further reading
  • classroom activities
  • self-care tips for educators
  • updates on district PBIS and Wellness initiatives

Winter 2018: Winter Boost!


Silver Awards all around!

Classroom Management resources to refresh routines

WCSD PBIS: Positive School Climate for Student Success