North Augusta's Paul Knox Middle School will be the first in Aiken County to implement a national system this fall that rewards pupils for good behavior.
The program is called Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports, and one provision calls for school personnel to look out for instances in which a pupil offers a helping hand or opens a door for someone without being asked. School officials are contemplating a points system that would allow pupils to cash in good deeds for rewards.
The Paul Knox school already does that to an extent, offering pizza parties at semester's end to pupils who have earned them.
"It's not necessarily just rewarding what students should be doing anyway," Principal John W. Bradley said. "It's to look at things that are above and beyond and hopefully elevate the cream of the crop, and that'll bring everybody else along with them."
The national program takes the process a step further, officials say.
The school was awarded a $3,000 state grant that will pay for a three-day course in Columbia this summer for a school administrator, teachers, parents and a guidance counselor. The course will emphasize the use of positive rather than negative reinforcement.
Susan Thomas oversees the behavioral program for South Carolina's Education Department and will work with the Paul Knox team.
"When you're using a punishment system, it might stop the behavior, but it doesn't change it," Ms. Thomas said. The training "talks about how positive systems change behavior.
"Instead of, 'Don't do that,' it's 'Do this.'
"Instead of 'Don't talk,' you would say, 'Use silent voices,'" she said.
The state Education Department has been spreading the national program across South Carolina for four years.
Steve Moore, the principal of Tamassee-Salem Middle and High School in Oconee County, said all 22 schools in the district have implemented the positive behavioral program. It has stressed the need for school officials to get to know pupils and their parents while teaching the youngsters responsibility, respect and the need to learn, he said.
"Discipline is not what you do to somebody," Mr. Moore said. "Discipline is knowing the right and wrong (time) to do something."
Dawn Bryant, the mother of an eighth-grade son at Paul Knox and the president of the school's Parent Teacher Association, said she favors the program and believes the responsibility for teaching and rewarding children for good conduct rests on both parents and schools.
"I think it's a great way to reward positive behavior," Ms. Bryant said.
Reach Nathan Dickinson at (803) 648-1395, ext. 109 or firstname.lastname@example.org.