Positive, Proactive Approaches to Supporting Children with Disabilities

In July 2022, the US Department of Education released important new guidance that “helps schools support students with disabilities and avoid discriminatory use of discipline.” Together, the Office for Civil Rights and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, designed guidance emphasizing the importance of proactively supporting and responding to the social, emotional, behavioral, and academic needs of students with disabilities in a manner that promotes access to, and benefit from, education and reduces the discriminatory use of exclusionary discipline.

  • The Office for Civil Rights guidance, “Supporting Students with Disabilities and Avoiding the Discriminatory Use of Student Discipline under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,” describes how schools can proactively support and respond to the behavioral needs of students with disabilities in a manner that provides access to a free and appropriate public education and maintains a safe learning environment for all.
  • The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services guidance, “Positive, Proactive Approaches to Supporting Students with Disabilities: A Guide for Stakeholders,” highlights the importance of organizing positive and proactive support within a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) framework, like positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), by implementing:

    ◦ A continuum of culturally and linguistically relevant and evidence-based academic and behavioral practices,
    Systems to support educators and build local capacity, and
    Data-based decision making to guide implementation.

    In addition, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services emphasizes the critical role of educator preparation and federal funding and resources available to address needs.

PBIS already embeds these recommended practices into its framework as referenced in the new guidance. We believe PBIS provides a strong foundation to implement this guidance and benefit students with disabilities. Educators at the classroom, school, and district levels can use the following Center on PBIS resources to put this guidance into action.

Creating a Positive Predictable Environment

Addressing Discipline Disparities

Implementing Evidence-Based Approaches to Respond to Student Needs

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)




Data-Based Decision Making

Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS)

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)

Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)

Professional Development

To address social, emotional, behavioral needs (culturally and linguistically responsive practices).

Reducing Exclusionary Practices