Creating Safe and Welcoming Schools

All In: Using Advisory to Transform School Climate

New funding availableSafe and welcoming schools are also high-achieving schools.

There is no question that school culture is a critical factor in student success. A growing body of research describes the link between positive school climate and student absenteeism, suspension, feeling connected and attached to school, positive self-concept, and motivation to learn. A school’s culture, in short, either promotes or undermines student learning.

Although a tremendous amount of time and energy has been spent in bullying prevention as a primary strategy to create positive school climate and reduce violence, rates of bullying have remained flat for 20 years. Research shows that what is more effective in transforming school culture — as well as reducing bullying — are those strategies aimed at getting to the heart of how students feel: their sense of safety, belonging, connectedness, and confidence. To transform school culture, schools must create a community of care — giving students strong skills to persevere; resolve conflict; manage emotions; engage in pro-social activities; engage with peers; partner with adults; and cope with disappointment, anxiety, and other stressors.

Many educators mistakenly believe that while it’s nice for students to feel good about school, it is not as important as reaching academic goals. This could not be further from the truth. Evidence from multiple fields indicates that students’ social and emotional health shapes their motivation to learn. Students need to feel people at school care about and respect them, and they need to have a sense of belonging to the school community. Without attachments to peers and adults and a hopeful vision of the future, students are more likely to fail.

How CEI can help

  • Tools and resources. Check out our tools and resources to help educators create safe and welcoming schools.
  • Professional development. CEI can also assist with professional development to help educators understand how to change their school’s climate. For more information on professional development, contact Finessa Ferrell at
  • Grants. Incentive grants with onsite technical assistance are also periodically available. Check this page for the most current information on funding opportunities. Grant information is also featured in CEI’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

ResourcesStatewide Blueprint

Anti -Defamation League – ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute customizes programs that provide the necessary skills, knowledge and awareness to promote and sustain inclusive and respectful school, work and home environments for schools, universities, corporations, community-based organizations, and law enforcement agencies.  For more information, click here.

Colorado Youth Matters – Colorado Youth Matter actively engages Colorado communities to promote the healthy sexual and reproductive development of all teens and advance the well-being of parenting teens.  To download resources for youth, parents, and providers, click here.


Facing History and Ourselves – Facing History works with educators to improve their effectiveness in the classroom, as well as their students’ academic performance and civic learning. Through a rigorous investigation of the events that led to the Holocaust, as well as other recent examples of genocide and mass violence, students in a Facing History class learn to combat prejudice with compassion, indifference with participation, and myth and misinformation with knowledge.  For educator resources, click here.

One Colorado – One Colorado is a statewide advocacy organization dedicated to securing and protecting equality and opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Coloradans and their families.


Partner Resources

Anti-Defamation League – Cyberbullying
Learn more about the ADL’s model cyberbullying prevention law as well as model curriculum and programming for students, teachers and community members to recognize and prevent cyberbullying.

Anti-Defamation League – No Place for Hate Campaign
Find out about this effort in the Mountain States region to organize schools to work together and develop projects that enhance the appreciation of diversity; access tools and strategies to promote respect for individual and group differences while challenging prejudice and bigotry.

Bullying Fact Sheet for General Audience
Use this simple fact sheet as a handout at school, district or school board meetings to build awareness about bullying, identify which students are at risk and learn how to stop harassment.

Bullying Fact Sheet for Parents
Hand out this fact sheet at back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences and PTA meetings to help parents recognize whether their child is being bullied – or is demonstrating bullying behavior.
Tap this comprehensive website for resources and information including feature articles on cyberbullying and other topics, intervention strategies for adults and youths to prevent bullying, federal data and more.

Bullying Prevention Resource Guide
Find best practices about what works and what doesn’t, assessment tools, ideas for program development, key questions to guide bullying prevention efforts and case studies about lessons learned from schools in Colorado – all designed for schools, families and communities.

Bullying at School and Online: Quick Facts for Parents
Use this comprehensive publication to get better informed about bullying, learn spread-the-word strategies to end bullying, recognize the warning signs of bullying and understand cyberbullying.

Center for the Study of Prevention and Violence
University of Colorado – Boulder

Visit this site for bully prevention tips, a link to Colorado’s anti-bullying law, common myths about bullying, fact sheets and bullying characteristics. CSPV also has available school climate surveys free to Colorado schools.

Colorado Department of Education: Safe and Drug-Free Schools
Learn more about this program, which is designed to support programs that prevent violence in and around schools plus find a list of additional bullying prevention resources.

Colorado School Safety Resource Center
Explore this website offering a wealth of resources for educators and to learn more about the Colorado School Safety Resource Center’s work with schools and communities to create safe and successful school environments for students.

Cyberbullying Research Center
Explore the Cyberbullying Research Center’s website for research, fact sheets, stories from students, presentations, blogs and videos about the nature, extent and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents.

EdNews Parent Colorado
Access background information, resources, tips and the latest news about issues affecting students, including bullying

Exploring the Nature and Prevention of Bullying
Delve into this comprehensive site by the U.S. Department of Education to learn more about bullying facts and myths; how to involve bystanders in bullying prevention; school-based bullying prevention plans; action steps for administrators, teachers, parents and students; and a list of additional bullying prevention resources.

Four Steps Schools Can Take to Address Anti-LGBT Bullying and Harassment
Learn more about four approaches that schools can put in place now to address anti-LGBT bullying and make schools safer for all students.

National Education Policy Center
Find policy recommendations to keep LGBTQ students safe in school from this brief, Safe at School: Addressing the School Environment and LGBT Safety through Policy and Legislation.

Public Agenda
See Public Agenda’s 2010 survey about the prevalence of bullying in schools. Results show nearly 75 percent of Americans consider bullying a serious problem in their local public school.

Safe Space Kit
Use this kit – available both online and in print – to create a safe space for LGBTQ students in school with the help of step-by-step strategies and awareness-raising posters and stickers.

Visit this site to learn how young people can anonymously report threatening behaviors or activities endangering them or someone they know.

Social and Emotional Learning and Bullying Prevention
Review this online publication for strategies, research and suggestions to prevent bullying and promote better learning.

Stop Bullying Now!
Visit the Stop Bullying Now! campaign to find games and cartoon webisodes that educators and parents can use to help students understand what bullying is and how to stop it – including LGBTQ bullying.

Think B4 You Speak Campaign
Use this guide to foster student learning about the negative consequences of homophobic language and anti-LGBTQ bias. Middle and high school educators can use the activities sequentially or as stand-alone experiences in the classroom, as part of Gay-Straight Alliance meetings, with students in diversity clubs or as part of a school diversity day.

ResourcesStatewide Blueprint

Youth engagement is a critical component in creating a supportive environment for social and emotional wellness and academic growth for students. This page serves as a resource for schools seeking to develop and maintain a successful youth engagement effort.  Youth engagement is a powerful approach to improving policies, programs and practices related to youth.

What does youth engagement mean?

Meaningful youth engagement occurs when young people are involved in responsible, challenging actions to create positive social change.

  • This means involving youth in planning and in making decisions that affect themselves and others.
  • Youth engagement happens in youth-adult partnerships that are structured so that both groups contribute, teach, and learn from each other.

 National Resource Center for Youth Development – Youth Engagement Toolkit
  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Best Practices User Guide: Youth Engagement

 Engaging Youth as Partners in Creating Healthy, Safe, and Welcoming Schools

 A Sincere Compliment:  The Story of the West High Bros Club
You may have seen some national press on Jeremiah Anthony, a high school student who has single handedly sparked a school culture change movement in his high school by starting the West High Bros.  WHB started with just Jeremiah who decided he would randomly tweet sincere compliments to students he went to school with, his friends at first and then all kinds of students for all kinds of random things. Soon other students wanted to do that with him and the “bros club” was formed. It has grown so markedly that now students look for things in school to tweet positively about. It’s a great example of how powerful students can be as change agents and drivers of school culture change. Watch the video and share with others, particularly  students who might be interested in starting this at your school.


The following sites provide educators, parents and community members with a diverse collection of information and resources that will guide them in effectively partnering with youth.

ResourcesStatewide Blueprint

Creating Middle School Allies in Diversity Program

Request for Proposal

Granting Organization: The Colorado Education Initiative
Grant Amount: $3,500
Number of Awards: 5
Eligibility: Colorado public/charter middle schools and Colorado school districts
Grant Period: October 15, 2015 – June 15, 2016
Application deadline: September 25, 2015, 5 p.m.

Summary: The intent of this funding is to advance the creation of Allies in Diversity programs, also called Allies Clubs, a promising middle school strategy to improve school climate and culture. An Allies program is a student club or class, taught/led by an adult teacher-leader during the school day with specific outcomes that are both individual-level change in attitudes and beliefs as well as school wide change that occurs when a strong cadre of students take action to promote kindness, respect and pro-social ideals as well as take action against mean, cruel and bullying behavior across the school community. An Allies Club functions as equal parts multiculturalism class, leadership academy, skill building lab, and safe space for all students, including those who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and gender non-conforming. From an instructional lens, the content aims to build student knowledge about social justice, equity, diversity and multiculturalism; create pro-social attitudes and beliefs toward all members of the school community; build critical student “upstander” skills that are practiced and put into action and create a space for students most at risk of experiencing bullying to form positive bonds with other club members who pledge to be not only their allies but allies for all students regardless of difference.

Important to Note:

Please read through Creating an Allies in Diversity Program for a deeper understanding of the Allies strategy and to inform your proposal submission. 

Download application

Word document   |   PDF document

Helpful Resources

Transforming School Climate Toolkit

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Share on Google+
Back to Top