Goal: Expel, suspend fewer
MISHAWAKA -- A half hour into a meeting with a reporter, Mike Fisher opens his office door at Mishawaka High School and peers into the hallway.

At 9:30 on this Wednesday morning, the desks lined up against the wall are empty.

"A couple years ago," he says, "you wouldn't have been here this long without a kid coming down."

An administrator, Fisher is charged with handling office discipline referrals for 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders.

And that part of his job has recently become much easier.

In the not-too-distant past, he would've seen 30 to 40 students each day. These days, he said, the number's down to 15 to 20.

Welcome to PBIS.

Positive behavioral interventions and support is a system used to improve student behavior.

When staff members have input and buy-in into the process, which de-emphasizes punishment and focuses instead on expectations, kids' behavior improves, he said.

PBIS was -- or is being -- put in place in area schools to satisfy HEA 1419, a new law that requires districts have a positive-behavior-focused plan for reducing student suspensions and expulsions.

Last school year, PBIS was fully implemented at all of Mishawaka schools.

And it's already shown results.

Office referrals for discipline have been almost slashed in half.

During a six-month period last school year, Fisher said, more than 4,000 students were sent to the office.

For the same period this school year, the number dropped to 2,200.

As for what PBIS looks like at Mishawaka High School, Fisher said, it's largely based on a slogan.

"Cavemen ROCK."

"ROCK" is an acronym for "respectful, on time, care for others, keep engaged."

Students learn what it looks like to "ROCK" in the hallways, the cafeteria and classrooms.