Two recent issues that may at first blush seem unrelated both highlight the importance of addressing social-emotional health and social-emotional learning in schools in order to build safe, positive school climates.
Improving school climate to reduce the risk of gun violence
The NC House Select Committee on School Safety, a 41-member committee formed the week after the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas school shooting in February, heard from speakers that one piece of the school safety puzzle is ensuring that students’ social-emotional health needs are addressed, which requires sufficient school counselors, social workers, and psychologists. The national recommendation is for one school psychologist per 700 students. North Carolina’s current ratio is one psychologist per 2,100 students. While the committee was focused mostly on older students, isolation and bullying can start at any age. Investing in prevention with young children is generally cheaper and more effective that intervention or treatment with older youth.
Improving school climate to reduce elementary school suspensions
Suspensions in Wake County Schools for preschool through fifth graders rose for the fifth straight year, according to a recent report. Wake County School Board members’ response was to push for more school support staff, like counselors, psychologists, nurses and social workers, to ensure positive school climates and address young children’s social-emotional health needs, including helping young children develop strategies to self-regulate and handle big emotions.
The Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Measures of Success framework highlights Positive School Climate as a critical measure for ensuring all children are reading on grade level by the end of third grade. Research shows that students have better academic and social-emotional outcomes when they learn in positive school climates, where they feel safe, connected and engaged.