Creating a Safe, Supportive Environment for Learning

  • Creating a safe, supportive environment for social and emotional learning (SEL) has been, and remains, a high priority for CASEL. It is inherent in our focus on integrating SEL into all aspects of school and district practice through a systemic approach.

    The environment for learning has become particularly important to educators at a time when young people are experiencing unusual degrees of stress throughout our society. Whether it be the horror of school shootings, the anxiety many children feel about the threat to their families’ through the proposed changes in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), or violence, children are deeply affected by these societal pressures.

    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, including peaceful ways to resolve conflicts. 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, which we share below.

  • “We believe in the power of education to teach nonviolence, promote understanding, endow children with purpose and meaning, and provide the skills and behaviors that can create a more inclusive, healthy, and positive future. This work is vital, perhaps now more than ever.”


    – Karen Niemi, CASEL President & CEO


    If you know of other guidance and resources that may be helpful, please share them with us. You can send new resources to

Resources from Our Colleagues and Collaborators

Resources to help children in the wake of a school shooting

Other resources

Anti-Defamation League: After Charlottesville—Teaching about Racism, Anti-Semitism and White Supremacy.

ASCD: Resources for Addressing Racism and Hatred in the Classroom.

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

ChildTrends: Moving Beyond Trauma: Child Migrants and Refugees in the United States.

Committee for Children: Helping Kids Feel Safe and Supported Post-Election. Also: Response to Charlottesville—A Call for Empathy and Inclusion.

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

Denver Public Schools. Creating a safe and supportive school district for children and families.

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

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

Huffington Post: Supporting Refugee and Immigrant Children.

Learning First Alliance: What Does the 2016 Election Mean for Public Schools? Also: Resources on School Culture.

Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility: Teachable Moments—Debating the Fate of DACA and Discussing Daca. Also: Post-Election Resources for Teachers.

National PTA: Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit.

New York Times: Resources for Teaching and Learning About the Las Vegas Shooting.

NPR Education: How teachers and schools can help when bad stuff happens.

Open Circle: Helping Children Deal with Traumatic Events.

Psychology Today: The Psychological Toll Facing Immigrants in Today’s America.

Sacramento City Unified School District: Safe Haven School District—Protecting Our Students and Families.

Sesame Street in Communities: Truamatic Experiences.

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