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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Psychology


National Institute for Justice Awards $4.1 Million Grant to the SMHT

Professor Mark Weist and colleagues from the University of South Carolina (USC) Department of Psychology School Mental Health Team Approved for a $4.1 Million dollar research grant by the National Institute for Justice

This four year, randomized control trial will evaluate the contribution of the Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF) in improving school safety and positive school climate, behavioral and discipline problems, mental and behavioral health, and school outcomes in students. This framework integrates two widely implemented school wide systems of support which address student behavioral health - Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) and School Mental Health (SMH). This study is the first experimental evaluation of the ISF’s contributions to school and student safety and functioning above the effects of PBIS alone or PBIS and SMH clinicians operating in normative (i.e.,disconnected) fashion. 24 elementary schools in South Carolina and Florida are participating in this randomized control trial. Schools will be assigned to one of three conditions: PBIS only, PBIS+SMH, or ISF. Students and teachers in all three conditions will be asked to complete school climate surveys and additional surveys assessing individual students’ exposure to violence, prosocial behaviors, and student satisfaction with school mental health services. We hypothesize that students in schools assigned to the ISF condition will receive less discipline referrals and report fewer behavioral health concerns by follow up compared to their peers. By evaluating the effectiveness of multiple interventions and their impact on school climate and school safety, results from this study will expand knowledge in the field of school behavioral health and has the potential to impact related judicial and educational policies nationally and in the communities participating in the study. The study is also led by co-principal investigator, Joni Splett of the University of Florida, and co-investigators, Colleen Halliday-Boykins of the Medical University of South Carolina, Mike Seaman and Christine DiStefano of USC in the College of Education, and Kathryn McCollister of the University of Miami.