Social, Emotional & Mental Health Best Practices


Social, Emotional & Mental Health Best Practices

A comprehensive approach to school social, emotional and mental health includes systemic improvements to school climate and culture and behavioral health supports.

How does your district measure up?

School Climate and Culture

  • Our school addresses school climate and culture through the implementation of research-based National School Climate Standards and evidence-based ESW standards.  Educational leaders develop supports for school climate and culture.
  • Our school staff integrates ESW standards across content areas and is held accountable as part of Colorado’s Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4K).
  • Our school holds high standards for maintaining safe and healthy schools and understands its role in promoting school climate and culture as part of Colorado’s Safe Schools Act.
  • School leaders update policies to include provisions for students protected under civil rights codes.  Policies promote the ESW standards as universal prevention for bullying by equipping all students to effectively manage their emotions and social relationships as part of the Measures to Reduce the Frequency of Bullying in Schools Act.
  • Our school promotes an attitude of caring and concern for others that fully embraces our diversity.  Classrooms, hallways and school grounds are free of sexist, homophobic, racist or other types of biased language.
  • Students are given an active and meaningful role in improving school climate and culture through student-led programs, academic classes and/or clubs.
  • All district and school staff members receive ongoing training to identify and intervene in bullying incidents.  They can distinguish bullying from other inappropriate behaviors and encourage appropriate actions by bystanders.  Students also understand the effects of bullying and promote healthy behaviors among peers.
  • Our school incorporates restorative practices as alternatives to zero tolerance discipline policies as suggested in Colorado’s House Bill 12-1345.
  • Our school integrates school culture standards into its core mission, and we review school policies and procedures regularly.
  • School leaders have established a confidential reporting system that allows children to report victimization and that records the details of bullying incidents.  We develop–or adjust–school policies appropriately to address different forms of bullying and harassment.
  • Our school’s climate is assessed regularly and policy is informed by surveying students anonymously about bullying and perceptions of school climate.  Staff and parents are also surveyed about their perceptions about school climate and culture.
  • Educators employ culturally relevant curriculum in their classrooms, and our school provides multiple opportunities for educators to learn from each other through culturally relevant professional development.

School Behavioral Health Supports 

  • Our school has a team to coordinate behavioral health services.  In a larger school this team could be made up of members that include an administrator, teachers, a counselor, school nurse, and/or mental health professional, school staff and community providers.  Smaller schools or districts may choose to have fewer team members, or efforts may be incorporated into a wider school climate and culture planning team.
  • There is an integrated and sustainable framework for Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) that serves as the foundation for student behavioral health needs.
  • PBIS is tied to behavioral health supports that include the support of community mental health providers, and a System of Care is in place.
  • Our school has gained school-wide commitment to the improvement of students’ social, emotional and mental health, and our staff realizes that the affective domain of learning cannot be separated from the cognitive.  The school has made multiple efforts to reduce the stigma around mental health.
  • Colorado’s ESW standards are embedded in the school culture, and the school integrates these standards as universal supports for student behavioral health.
  • Our teachers have a common understanding of how to refer students to appropriate behavioral health services, and our school has an established referral system for students with behavioral health needs.  There is an ongoing, open communication loop between community provider, parents and school.
  • Behavioral Health Practices are embedded in the school’s improvement planning process and UIP, and we regularly assess strengths and gaps in our behavioral health services.
  • To promote mental health for all students, our school has a coordinated school health model effectively in place.  The school has a strategic development plan for all eight components:  counseling, psychological and social services; healthy school environment; comprehensive health education curriculum; nutrition services; physical education; health services; health promotion for staff; and family and community involvement.
  • Our school encourages students to seek out staff who can provide extra support and care if students are being harassed due to race, sexual orientation, ethnicity or for other reasons.  Staff members also serve as allies who speak out and stand up for students who are discriminated against.
  • We promote parent engagement in the classroom and throughout the school to create a positive, community-learning environment.
  • Our school leaders ensure that teachers receive training and support, such as Mental Health First Aid and PBIS professional development, to be advocates for all of their students.
  • Our school leaders encourage staff wellbeing, and recognize that teaching is not strictly an occupational endeavor; teaching is an intricate profession that requires both emotional and intellectual support.

“We have a philosophy of doing this training and bullying prevention work, but also incorporating school and community partnerships that support the content.”

K.G. Green, Elementary School Assistant Principal, St. Vrain School
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