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What is a behavior intervention plan?

By Amanda Morin

At a Glance

  • Kids who misbehave in school have a harder time learning.

  • Behavior intervention plans (or BIPs) aim to prevent behavior that gets in the way of learning.

  • A BIP is a formal, written plan that teaches and rewards good behavior.

Most kids get in trouble now and then at school. But when they act out over and over again, it can be hard for them (and their classmates) to learn. To help a student behave, a school may put in place a behavior intervention plan. (You may also hear it called a positive behavior intervention plan.)

A behavior intervention plan (or BIP) is a formal, written plan that teaches and rewards good behavior. The purpose is to prevent or stop misbehavior.

A BIP can be a single page or many pages and has three key parts. The plan:

  • Lists the problem behavior

  • Describes why it’s happening

  • Puts in place strategies or supports to help

To make a BIP, the school puts together a school team to look into the behavior. The team may interview the student, the teacher, and other staff. They should also observe the student and talk to the family to figure out what’s happening. Testing might be used, too, as well as a review of past report cards or incidents.

Since kids change over time, the school should review the BIP every so often. If there’s new information or if the student needs a change, the school should adjust the plan as needed.

Dive deeper

How a BIP works in practice

Say a middle-schooler is cracking jokes in history class every day. When the teacher asks the student to stop, the student responds with insults. The student is sent to the principal’s office almost every day. As a result, the student and their classmates are having trouble learning history.

There are lots of reasons kids might disrupt class like this. They might be restless. They may not understand what’s being taught. They might want attention from the teacher or from other students.

Sometimes, kids don’t know why they do what they do. The school team has to do some detective work to figure out why the student is acting out. This process is called a functional behavioral assessment

Once the team understands the reason (or reasons), it puts together the plan to prevent it from happening. For example, if the problem is restlessness, the student could take breaks when feeling antsy. The plan may even include teaching the student strategies for staying focused.

Educators refer to these strategies and supports as interventions. This means they’re formal and done for a specific amount of time. The team will also keep an eye on how they’re working. 

Learn more about positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) for behavior problems.

Who gets a behavior intervention plan?

Not every student gets a behavior plan. They’re meant for kids who have a lot of trouble behaving appropriately, and only when it gets in the way of their learning.

Some kids already have 504 plans or IEPs to help them thrive in school. For these kids, the 504 or IEP team will decide whether to add a BIP. If added, the plan becomes part of their education program. 

But kids don’t have to have a 504 plan or IEP to get a behavior plan. If kids act out in school and it’s hurting their learning, they might get a BIP. It’s up to the school to decide how to help.

Sometimes, the law requires schools to consider giving a student a behavior plan — for example, if a student with an IEP or 504 plan is suspended from school for several days. 

Learn more about school discipline and the rights of students with 504 plans or IEPs

Why BIPs don’t always work

Behavior plans don’t always work. Here are two reasons why. 

Mismatches between the behavior and the strategies. Sometimes, the school assumes a student is acting out for one reason, but it’s not the real reason. For example, if a student is cracking jokes in class to hide a reading difficulty, then letting the student take breaks might not help.

Outdated plans. Another pitfall is that a school and a family set up a plan but don’t come back to review it. If the behavior plan doesn’t change with the student, it can get outdated quickly — especially if there are rewards or incentives in the plan. What works at first might soon become “old hat” and need to be switched out.

The best way to see if a plan is the right move is for teachers and families to talk about the student’s behavior. 

Parents and caregivers: Use these conversation starters to talk with your child’s teacher.  

Educators: Get tips on how to reach out to families about challenging behaviors

Related topics

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom