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Addressing Antisocial Behavior

For the small number of children and youth who display serious and persistent anti-social behavior, interventions must be comprehensive, initiated as early as possible, sustained, and involve each student's family, peers, teachers, and a variety of service providers and service systems. The key to success for these students is the provision of comprehensive interventions - interventions that incorporate coordinated, interagency approaches that are collaborative in nature and individually tailored to each student. Alternative programs and placements, such as day-treatment centers, specialized schools, special classes, and residential environments may be necessary for some students. The most successful alternative programs and placements tend to be characterized by:

  • a desire to prepare students for reintegration into a less restrictive setting, and to reintegrate students as soon as possible,
  • a commitment to high academic expectations,
  • strategies aimed at enabling students to gain the social skills that enable them to succeed as adults and in mainstream settings,
  • teachers who like and are committed to their students,
  • a high staff/student ratio,
  • an array of support services, and
  • attempts to empower students and families (Osher, 1996).

Increasingly, the services that are offered in alternative programs are being incorporated into students' neighborhood schools, enabling students to remain at home and in their home school. Schools successfully utilizing comprehensive services typically provide a school-wide approach to addressing the needs of children with behavioral problems, including primary and secondary prevention strategies for all students.

Rhode Island's Westerly Middle School and High School employ collaborative teaching among teams of regular and special educators. Those teams modify their instruction to enhance engagement and learning among all students, and the schools provide students with alternative disciplinary responses incorporated into individualized behavior plans, a planning center to go for academic and emotional support, and a team of individuals who work with students, teachers, and families to monitor efforts and to improve results. These efforts, in turn, are backed by staff development, student mentoring, and links with mental health and social service agencies. By employing these mechanisms, Westerly has been able to improve the grades, achievement, and attendance of students with emotional and behavioral problems, while at the same time decreasing disciplinary referrals and establishing inclusive and responsive learning communities among students, faculty, staff, and families (Osher, 1996).


Osher, D. (1996). Working with students who are behaviorally challenging: A preliminary report Washington, DC: Chesapeake Institute.


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2000 Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice