In Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) we provide a full continuum of special education services and placements for students who are eligible with an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
A Specialized Program, also known as Self-Contained Class, is one component of the special education continuum. CVUSD offers Social-Emotional Specialized Programs to support students with a disability that primarily manifests with externalizing behaviors and/or with a higher level of social-emotional needs. Glenwood Elementary supports our transitional kindergarten through 5th graders. Los Cerritos Middle School supports our 6th-8th graders and each of the comprehensive high schools support students in grades 9 through 12. Placement into one of our Specialized Programs is discussed during IEP meetings and is an IEP team decision.
Prior to attending a Social-Emotional Specialized Program, a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA, Ventura County Special Education Local Plan Area Positive Behavior Interventions Handbook pgs. 7-21) shall be completed, with parent consent, in order to gather data on the student’s behavior and needs. Results from the FBA shall be shared during an IEP meeting and the team shall consider a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP; Ventura County Special Education Local Plan Area Positive Behavior Interventions Handbook pgs. 22-53). A BIP is a detailed IEP document that defines the target behaviors observed to interfere with the student’s learning or that of other students and includes specific proactive strategies to reduce the behavior along with instructional strategies to teach the student replacement behaviors to have the student’s needs met.
In order to sufficiently support our students in our Social-Emotional Specialized Program classes we maintain a low teacher to student ratio of approximately one teacher to 10 students. We also staff each class with two paraeducators who are trained to support the social-emotional and behavior needs of students. At Glenwood Elementary we have a full time behavioral health clinician and at our middle school and high schools we also provide intensive mental health supports. The classroom teacher and paraeducators are always working to maximize the student’s access and opportunities in a general education setting. Individualized special education services are discussed during IEP meetings.
The Social-Emotional Specialized Program staff use common core curriculum that is accommodated to meet individual student needs. In addition staff utilizes strategies with students to support their social-emotional needs, such as, but not limited to:
- High reinforcement frequency
- Point systems designed to teach the student about their behavior and learn to self-monitor
- Individual daily check-ins
- Social-skills lessons
- Positive behavior based supports and interventions throughout the day
The staff in our programs emphasize positive reinforcement with students and recognize the behavior is rooted in the student’s disability. Therefore, if or when a student presents with externalizing behaviors, verbally and/or physically, the staff respond in a supportive manner and use de-escalation strategies to diffuse the situation. Examples of de-escalation strategies are, but not limited to:
- Providing the student with a choice
- Reminding the student of self-selected reinforcers they are working towards
- Using a calm voice to validate the student’s feelings
- Removing the triggering item or prompt until the student is de-escalated (yet reintroducing the item or prompt and support the student to cope through the situation so they build the skills)
- Access to sensory soothing items and space
- Verbally prompting to relocate to a pre-identified space that is free from distraction and other triggers
- Offering the student the opportunity to speak with the on-site mental health provider or another familiar and trusted staff member on campus
Proactive and de-escalation strategies are individualized and co-developed with the parent/guardian during IEP meetings.
At times, despite the use of such strategies to de-escalate a situation, if a student presents with behavior that poses “a clear and present danger of serious physical harm to the pupil or others that cannot be immediately prevented by a response that is less restrictive an educational provider may use seclusion or a behavioral restraint only to control behavior.” (Educ. Code §§ 49005.4, 56521.1(a)) For these purposes, California law defines “seclusion” as “the involuntary confinement of a pupil alone in a room or area from which the pupil is physically prevented from leaving…” (Educ Code § 49051(i))
To ensure staff and students are safe during situations that require de-escalation; staff are trained in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (NCI), which is designed by the Crisis Prevention Institute (NCI Instructor’s Manual). This training emphasizes verbal de-escalation as the primary response. The training also includes how to conduct a safe transport and restraint, both of which are a last resort. A transport and/or a restraint are not used as punishment. Please see CVUSD description of Safe De-Escalation Space and Rooms.