Creating a Safe Environment for Learning

In the wake of the 2016 election, it’s clear that social and emotional learning (SEL) is more relevant to the education of American children than ever. No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, the ripple effects from the 2016 election will be felt for months and years to come. There have been other threats to children’s sense of safety long before the election, however. Creating a safe environment for learning has been, and remains, a high priority for CASEL.

Research tells us that children and adolescents take their cues from adults. As adults, we set the tone for what is acceptable in our society, and this contributes in powerful ways to the social norms of our schools’ culture. One of the pillars of CASEL’s approach to SEL implementation is a strong commitment to promoting a positive school climate. For many years we have worked closely with colleagues and organizations with a similar mission—for example, the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments and the National School Climate Center.

We hope all our partners, colleagues, and collaborators, including the families and communities whose support is essential to successful schools, will be part of a renewed effort to bridge the gaps in respect and human relationships in today’s world. We hope you will continually emphasize the importance of accepting and understanding others, recognizing and celebrating individual and cultural differences, and engaging in civil, tolerant dialog even when there’s disagreement about specific policies.

For excellent resources on how to teach social and emotional learning and embed it in the culture of your school, we recommend the numerous highly rated SEL programs reviewed and described in our CASEL Guides for both the preschool/elementary level and the secondary level.

We also highly recommend the work of our colleagues in the SEL field. Many of them have developed effective responses and guidance to educators for dealing with stressful current events. We’re happy to share them, below.

If you know of other guidance and resources that may be helpful, please share them with us.

Resources from Our Colleagues and Collaborators

Austin Independent School District, one of our Partner Districts: Video of a town meeting to ease post-election tensions.

Committee for Children: Helping Kids Feel Safe and Supported Post-Election.

Confident Parents Confident Kids: Expanding the Circle: Teaching Children the Values and Actions of Inclusion.

Facing History and Ourselves: How to Move Forward Together After a Divisive Election.

Greater Good: How to Help Diverse Students Find Common Ground.

Learning First: What does the 2016 election mean for public schools? (includes links to other resources).

Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. Post-election resources for teachers.

Teaching Tolerance (A Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center): Begin Within.

Teaching Tolerance (A Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center): The Day After.

Always relevant–the basics of SEL

If you aren’t already well-acquainted with the basic principles and practices of SEL, we encourage you to learn about it in the following specific sections of our website:

Understanding social and emotional learning–“What Is SEL?”
Approaches for school-based implementation of SEL.
How it’s done in practice—the work of our Partner Districts.