Creating Safer Schools with CPI De-escalation Training
School District U-46 in Elgin, Illinois, was at a tipping point. Fights were breaking out at all five high schools and even some of the district’s middle schools. Staff were told to stop the violence—but were never provided with training on how to safely de-escalate situations.
The result? Instead of decreased violence, the district was expelling 40+ kids a year, and workers’ compensation claims were frequent. One teacher was even assaulted with a knife.
Addressing Violence in U-46 Schools
This was the situation that John Heiderscheidt was presented with when he became the district’s Director of School Safety and Culture in 2009. John knew that what the district needed wasn’t tighter laws or stricter punishments. Instead, teachers and staff needed training.
John knew about CPI training from a previous position in a nearby community. There, all special ed and assistant teachers were required to attend CPI training every year. John met with other staff at U-46 to discuss CPI and compare the training program to other options available.
Ultimately John persuaded U-46 to use CPI’s training because as he explains,
“CPI is consistent, reliable, evidence-based, and provides an initiative for our staff to begin using these techniques the day after training is conducted.”
Achieving a 90% Reduction of Assaults on School Staff
With the commitment of the district secured, John became a CPI Certified Instructor. He has since trained deans, social workers, paraeducators, behavior interventionists, teachers, special ed administrators, principals, and more. John also helped select additional staff to be trained as Certified Instructors.
Before long, nearly half of the district’s 5,000 staff members had been trained in CPI’s prevention and intervention concepts. The solutions developed were simple: remove bystanders, call for help, wait and don’t intervene alone. Give the student space and use respectful body language and tone of voice to help introduce calm into the situation.
Using these strategies, staff throughout U-46 began to see measurable results. John shared that,
“In the first year of implementation, we reduced incidents of assault on staff by 90% through a strategy on how to effectively break up fights.”
In Streamwood high school, every single staff member received CPI training. “That’s our school that I believe is doing the best,” John said. “Today they have the least amount of fights.”
Now, five years since CPI training was introduced to U-46, “assaults on staff have remained low. Our out-of-school suspensions have been reduced by 75%. And our fights continue to decrease year after year. Our teachers now spend less time on discipline and more time on teaching. It has helped teachers feel safer, and it empowers them to act. As a result, they are able to create safer and more nurturing environments, which helps students learn and achieve.”
Case Study: School District U-46 - Illinois
See the results of what happened when the U-46 district in Illinois introduced CPI training to all staff.View case study
Tips for Successfully implementing CPI Training at Your School
- Use real-life scenarios: Ask trainees to act out possible situations. This allows staff to think about their responses and have discussions about how to best respond if and/or when an incident occurs.
- Start from the top: John explains, “Unless the school administration is strongly behind the effort, you will face an uphill battle.
- Use CPI’s support system: CPI offers implementation and problem-solving support. “CPI’s instructor services reduce my anxiety,” says John, “they provide the services in need in a pinch or even when I plan and provide advice and resources to improve my service delivery.”
Originally published in 2016.