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Interconnecting PBIS and School Mental Health to Improve School Safety: A Randomized Trial

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2020
45 pages

This is the Final Summary Overview of the findings and methodology of an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF) in addressing school safety.


The ISF addresses the limitations of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and School Mental Health (SMH) systems for improving school climate and safety. PBIS is a holistic, multi-tiered, evidence-based approach for preventing and reducing aggression and other problem behavior in school through the implementation of universal prevention (Tier 1) for all children, targeted intervention (Tier 2) for children at risk or showing early signs of problems, and intensive interventions (Tier 3) for children and youth with more significant problems. Schools have struggled to implement Tiers 2 and 3. SMH services have improved the early identification and access to the mental health services for students with problem behaviors improving student outcomes and school safety; however, SMH commonly involves “co-located” clinicians implementing treatment isolated from other school programming, including PBIS. Students also must be at a crisis level before they are referred for services. In addressing the noted limitations of PBIS and SMH, the ISF capitalizes on PBIS’ strong implementation infrastructure and improved services in Tiers 2 and 3 through SMH. providing a comprehensive continuum of evidence-based practices. The current study evaluated the contribution of the ISF in improving school safety, school climate, behavioral and discipline problems, and school outcomes for students. The evaluation involved the implementation of ISF in 12 elementary schools in two large school districts in the Southeastern United States for the 2017-2018 school year. The evaluation involved teacher ratings of students and student ratings of problem and prosocial behaviors at school and school climate. Findings from this first randomized controlled trial on the ISF support its positive impact across multiple domains of school climate and security.

Date Published: December 1, 2020