Behavior intervention plans: What you need to know
At a Glance
Kids who misbehave in school have a harder time learning.
To help a child who struggles to behave, a school can put in place a formal plan.
The behavior intervention plan tries to prevent bad behavior, not just punish the child.
Most kids get in trouble now and then at school. But if a child acts out over and over again, it can be hard for them (and their classmates) to learn in school. To help a child behave, a school may put in place a formal plan.
Here’s what you need to know about behavior intervention plans (or BIPs).
What’s a behavior intervention plan?
A BIP is a written plan that teaches and rewards good behavior. It can be a single page or many pages. The purpose is to prevent or stop misbehavior, not just punish the child.
The plan has three key parts. First, the plan lists the problem behavior. Second, it describes why it’s happening. Third, it puts in place strategies or supports to help.
How do schools figure out why a child is misbehaving? And how do they know what strategies or supports to use? They put together a team of school staff to look into it.
The school team may interview the child, the teacher, and other staff. They should also observe the child and talk to the child’s family to figure out what’s happening. Testing might be used, too, as well as a review of past report cards or incidents. (This process is called a
functional behavior assessment
Here’s an example of how a BIP might work. Say a middle-schooler is cracking jokes in history class every day. When the teacher asks the child to stop, the child responds with insults.
The child is sent to the principal’s office almost every day. And neither the child nor the child’s classmates are learning any history.
There are many possible 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 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 child is acting out.
Once the team understands the reason (or reasons), it puts together the plan to prevent it from happening.
For example, if a child wants attention, the school may try to channel this in a more positive way — maybe letting the child perform in a talent show. If the problem is restlessness, the child could take breaks when feeling antsy. The plan may even include teaching the child strategies for staying focused.
Educators refer to these strategies and supports as
. This means they’re formal and done for a specific amount of time. The team also will keep an eye on how they’re working. That’s why the plan is called a behavior intervention plan.
Who gets a behavior intervention plan?
Not every child 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
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. Sometimes, the
law requires schools to consider giving a child a behavior plan
— for example, if a child with an IEP or 504 plan is suspended from school for several days.
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.
What to watch out for
Kids change over time, and so should their behavior plans. The school should review the BIP every so often, and adjust it if there’s new information or if the child needs a change.
Sadly, lots of behavior plans don’t work out at first. That could happen if there’s a mismatch between the behavior problem and the strategies in the plan. Sometimes, the school assumes a child is acting out for one reason, but it’s not the real reason.
For example, if a child is cracking jokes to hide a reading difficulty, then letting the child be part of the talent show might not help.
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 child, 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.