BIST in Action: 33 Years of Impact in Public Schools - Guest Blog by Marty Huitt, Director of BIST

My journey with BIST (Behavior Intervention Support Team) began in 1997 as a BIST Consultant working in schools throughout the Kansas City metro area. Six years later, I took on the role of Director of BIST. Since that time, I have had the awesome opportunity to witness schools on their journey to enhance care for students. BIST now works with nearly 300 schools throughout a seven-state area – Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Illinois. When schools come together and become more like-minded in their thinking about what students need when they struggle behaviorally, they are able to increase student success on a regular basis.   

BIST was developed in the late 1980s and started working with public schools in the 1989-90 school year. BIST is a trauma-informed, psycho-educational model based on the concepts of grace and accountability. The intent when working with schools is to support the adult educational community – teachers, administrators, counselors, and paraprofessionals – in a manner that allows them to increase the consistency of care for all students.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a student that transferred into a new elementary school in the late first quarter of her third-grade year. This school was her fifth school since starting kindergarten. Due to her past experience, she was not able to trust the adults in the school to be on her side and support her in a kind, caring manner. As a result, she began to act out and was significantly disruptive in the classroom. Fortunately, her teacher was effective and committed to the success of all her students. Within a few weeks, the teacher reached out to the administrative team for support regarding this challenging student.

In true BIST fashion, the adults in the school came together to support this girl in collaboration with her mom. The student started the difficult, vulnerable process of learning to trust adults. The journey for the adults was just as vulnerable and difficult. Significant restrictions (protections) were put in place to help this student stay out of trouble. During that time, she was provided with schoolwork and the opportunity to help with the school’s preschool program. Over the course of three months, this young student began to make significant academic gains due to the reduction in her misbehavior. She also started experiencing higher levels of success behaviorally, and she felt very important due to her work in preschool. 

During the summer between her third and fourth grades, I asked this student to come to a BIST Training and share about her personal success with other teachers at the training. During her presentation, one teacher asked her if she got any rewards during this process for her hard work.  

“I got three rewards,” she said. ”One, every day I had a good day, the principal would either call my mom or send a positive note home. Two, I got to go back to third grade and join my class. And three, I have friends for the first time in my life!” 

Years later, I had the opportunity to speak again with this student, now a freshman in high school. I asked her what she thought about how the adults supported her in third grade.

Her response was: “If they hadn’t worked with me for that amount of time to help me learn how to trust adults and follow directions, I probably wouldn’t still be in high school.” 

When adults come together to increase the consistency and quality of care for children, kids have the opportunity to make better choices and improve their relationships with themselves and others. Through the BIST program, we strive to increase success in the classroom and, ultimately, to ensure success in life. 

If you are an educator, parent, or adult who works with children, we challenge you to accept the opportunity to create sustainable transformation in a child’s life by learning more about this evidence-based model. To learn more, visit the BIST website, sign up for our quarterly newsletter, or register for one of our training sessions.