The project centers on the educational system of Cyprus, whereby current school practices have failed to develop or establish a school-wide constructive culture that promotes successful social behavior and instructional/curricular supports for all students (Papadopoulos, 1997, 2011; Phtiaka et al., 2005). The Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus (MOEC) has followed rather a reactive and centralized approach to school discipline problems. For example, the Committee of Direct Intervention, a team of professionals on school violence housed at MOEC, intervenes after the occurrence of discipline issues and upon school's written request. In reality, schools seldom receive immediate assistance when school discipline issues arise, partly due to the gigantic caseload of school psychologists (i.e., 3,500 students per professional). The concern about diverse behavioral and academic needs has produced many intervention and prevention-tailored programs to target students at risk for school failure, including after-school art and music activities, group theme projects, folklore stories and traditional songs, experiential social skills workshops, and anti-drug campaigns (MOEC, 2012). Unfortunately, such programs present conceptual limitations and lack scientific evidence. Moreover, these activities do not promote a holistic, coherent, and well-structured positive school culture rather than focus on spending after-school time in a pleasant way. Of note, a task-force scientific committee on school violence assigned by MOEC urged for proactive school-wide evidence-based measures and ongoing teacher professional development support (Kapardis et al., 2008).
Recently, emphasis has shifted towards creating schools as positive learning communities by promoting a constellation of evidence-based interventions, practices and processes for achieving an inclusive social culture for all children. This proposed school-wide framework has been widely known as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and it was originally developed in America (Sugai & Horner, 1999). Preventing and minimizing challenging student behaviors is NOT a one-person's or one-group's responsibility, but a systems-change process that requires a well-crafted plan involving all parties (students, school staff, parents, community). Its logic of prevention is straightforward: it is difficult to learn when students spend more time in disruptive behaviors than in academically related interactions. Therefore, students need to be taught appropriate social and academic expectations and to be supervised in their learning. Teachers need assistance teaching behavioral expectations and academic skills. Administrators need help establishing order and maintaining school safety. Parents need guidance participating as partners in making schools positive places to send their children. PBIS is a research-based educational reform framework. PBIS is not a canned intervention program but an implementation plan that:
· Emphasizes a continuum of evidence-based practices across three prevention tiers (or levels)
· Establishes a safe, positive social culture and intensive individual learning supports
· Achieves important academic and social outcomes for all children