Virginia teacher: Asking students to sit quietly and listen to the teacher is white supremacy

A Virginia teacher posted a video on TikTok in which he explained that “PBIS is white supremacy.” PBIS stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and is the model that Virginia schools use for encouraging good behavior in the classroom. According to this teacher, asking kids to sit in their seats and listen to the teacher comes from “white culture” and is therefore suspect.

“So if PBIS concerns itself with positive behaviors, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Okay well what are those positive behaviors?’ And it’s things like making sure that you’re following directions, and making sure that you’re sitting quietly, and you are in your seat and all these things that come from White culture.”

“The idea of just sitting quiet and being told stuff and taking things in in a passive stance is not a thing that’s in many cultures. So if we’re positively enforcing these behaviors, we are by extension positively enforcing elements of White culture. Which therefore keeps Whiteness at the center, which is the definition of White supremacy.”

Here’s the clip:

Is sitting quietly at your desk and listening to the teacher when she’s speaking really something we want to get away from? I mean if it’s racist and bad then clearly we should. But it seems to me it would be hard to have classrooms of 25-30+ students if some sort of discipline wasn’t maintained. Unfortunately we never get to hear about the alternative this teacher is promoting or using in his own class.

The Virginia Department of Education has a page about PBIS here.

PBIS helps teachers and administrators learn about and implement new techniques that reduce disruptive student behavior, which typically leads to office referrals, in school suspensions, and out-of-school suspensions that decrease instructional time for students. Based on extensive research, PBIS utilizes a positive approach to discipline. PBIS ultimately impacts the very culture of the school to shift attention to positive behavior and successful learning systems for children, teachers and administrators.

PBIS is not a specific intervention or curriculum. Through focused attention on data collection and analyses, PBIS provides a framework of proactive, evidence-based prevention and intervention behavioral strategies that aid schools in defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behaviors in a positive school culture.

If PBIS is promoted at his school, you might wonder how the school feels about him claiming that policy is actually racist. Fox News got a reaction from the school district:

The Montgomery County School District told Fox News of the video that, “A teacher is entitled to their personal belief regarding any division program. The statements made by this teacher do not reflect our PBIS program or the behavioral expectations that we have of students in our schools.”

The school district also noted “MCPS has used PBIS in our schools for eight years. We are proud of our PBIS work. This work helps create a standard for social-emotional learning and behavior expectations in the school building.”

Pretty anodyne stuff but I guess school districts aren’t looking to make headlines. No one is questioning the right of the teacher to have a private opinion. But if one of your teacher’s is claiming the district’s approach is racist and part of white supremacy, you would think they’d have a bit more to say about it.

Update: Here’s a longer video explaining PBIS as an attempt to reward positive behavior rather than punish bad behavior.