SEL, School Safety, and School Climate

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School violence must be prevented upstream before a crisis can develop.

In response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Federal Commission on School Safety and Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting Public Safety Commission each recommend SEL as a key method for school violence prevention.1, 2

These commissions follow up on what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously found: evidence strongly suggesting that student social and self-regulation and problem-solving are key to school violence prevention.3

Several social-emotional skills are key to preventing school violence.

SEL mitigates violence.

  • Student self-regulation, social regulation, and problem solving—which are social-emotional skills—are key to preventing school violence.4
  • School-based, universal SEL programs promote skills and attitudes that serve as protective factors which can mitigate harmful behaviors.5
  • Socially and emotionally supportive classrooms correlate with long-term reductions of violent behavior.6
  • Programs that foster SEL increase the sense of safety for both staff and students.7
  • SEL promotes a positive school climate.8
Research-based SEL programs can
provide support for all students and can improve school climate and safety.

SEL promotes a positive school climate.

  • Teachers, students, and parents all report increased student safety and well-being in schools with schoolwide SEL programs.8
  • A supportive classroom climate is essential to student success and has been shown to reduce violent behaviors.6
  • Student conduct is positively related to the social-emotional aspects of the classroom climate, which is moderated by students’ perceptions of their relationship with the teacher.9
  • Teacher-student relationships and implementation of SEL can influence classroom and student outcomes; to this end, teachers’ social-emotional skill set is critical.10

Policy Recommendations

  • Promote research-based SEL in educational settings
  • Include research-based SEL strategies in school climate and safety efforts
  • Provide sustainable funding streams to schools to fund SEL as a Tier I universal intervention
    in a comprehensive plan for school safety
  • Increase access to educator learning opportunities for SEL


  1. US Department of Education. (2018, December 18). Final report of the federal commission on school safety. Retrieved from
  2. State of Florida, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. (2019, November 1). Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting Public Safety Commission: Second report submitted to the governor, speaker of the House of Representatives and Senate president. Retrieved from
  3. David-Ferdon, C., Vivolo-Kantor, A. M., Dahlberg, L. L., Marshall, K. J., Rainford, N., & Hall, J. E. (2016). A comprehensive technical package for the prevention of youth violence and associated risk behaviors. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  4. Smith, D. C. & Sandhu, D. S. (2011). Toward a positive perspective on violence prevention in schools: Building connections. Journal of Counseling & Development, 82(3), 287–293. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6678.2004.tb00312.x
  5. Taylor, R. D., Oberle, E., Durlak, J. A., & Weissberg, R. P. (2017). Promoting positive youth development through school-based social and emotional learning interventions: A meta-analysis of follow-up effects. Child Development, 88(4), 1156–1171.
  6. Sprott, J. B. (2004). The development of early delinquency: Can classroom and school climates make a difference? Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 46, 553–572.
  7. Heydenberk, R. A., Heydenberk, W. R., & Tzenova, V. (2006). Conflict resolution and bully prevention: Skills for school success. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 24(1), 55-69. doi:10.1002/crq.157
  8. Snyder, F. J., Vuchinich, S. Acock, A., Washburn, I. J., & Flay, B. R. (2011). Improving elementary school quality through the use of a socialemotional and character development program: A matched-pair, cluster-randomized, controlled trial in Hawai’i. Journal of School Health, 82(1), 11–20. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00662.x
  9. Brackett, M. A., Reyes, M. R., Rivers, S. E., Elbertson, N. A., & Salovey, P. (2011). Classroom emotional climate, teacher affiliation, and student conduct. Journal of Classroom Interaction, 46, 27-36.
  10. Jennings, P. A. & Greenberg, M. T. (2009). The prosocial classroom: Teacher social and emotional competence in relation to student and classroom outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 79(1), 491-525. doi:10.3102/0034654308325693