The PBIS Problem: Short-Term Rewards That Dilute Long-Term Responsibility

Written By: Ethan Rampersaud
Photo Credit: PBIS Rewards
Note: The views of the author do not reflect those of the Pirate Voice.

Recently, it has come to my attention that Pasco High School has adopted a program known as PBIS Rewards. According to its website, this organization seeks to create a positive school environment by encouraging students to practice positive behaviors in exchange for points. For instance, a student could receive points by obeying their teacher and the rules the teacher sets in place. Once the student has accumulated enough points, they can then purchase rewards, such as backpacks or candy.

At first glance, one might say this is a system that really improves our school. After all, we students are motivated to contribute to a safe, positive, and engaging school environment, and our teachers, support staff, and administration can spend less time writing detentions and referrals for us. Furthermore, we are rewarded for practicing this good behavior, and as we get rewarded more often, we will likely practice positive behaviors more frequently, so what does this system do that doesn’t help us attain success?

The answer? This system won’t help us outside of high school. While it is admirable that our school is trying to condone good behaviors rather than condemn bad ones, it must also consider the fact that we must enter careers and higher education organizations that don’t hand out points and prizes for positive behaviors. That is because these organizations expect positive behavior. As students and employees, we will be trusted to follow guidelines, respect our professors and employers, and ensure a safe and secure environment all without the promise of rewards. If we violate the rules these organizations put in place, we could face punishments in the form of disincentives and dismissal. When our school uses PBIS Rewards, it is not giving us the boost we need to enter the real world. Instead, it is holding us back, sheltering us like an overprotective and doting parent.

By the time we entered high school, we were teenagers. At this age, we needed to begin understanding our newfound responsibilities. For instance, we needed to understand that we would need to put more effort in our schoolwork, since high school courses are much more demanding and time-consuming compared to those in elementary and middle school. Now, many of us have or will have a job during high school, and many of us have or will have a driver’s license, all responsibilities that arrive with the coming of age. Thus, our school’s policies should reflect our increased responsibility. Instead of promising rewards to us in the hopes that our behavior will change, Pasco High should return to punishing those who violate the Student Code of Conduct and therefore threaten the learning environment. By adhering to this tradition, Pasco High teaches us to anticipate and accept the consequences for the negative and detrimental behaviors we do, making us more prepared to be responsible in the real world.

Now, I’m not asking Pasco High to have a totalitarian, obstinate environment. This policy would also not be helpful for us, as the majority of us would likely find it dehumanizing and detrimental. Rather, I am simply asking Pasco High to treat us like the grown-ups of our future, not like the naive children of our past. Pasco High School’s mission statement asserts that its goal is to, “develop future citizens for the challenges that lie ahead.” If Pasco High is to reflect this bold statement, it must start with providing us with responsibility, a reward that is much more prized than any backpack or candy.


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