A transformative, participatory approach for social-emotional focused urban school reform
In the United States, children that require mental health supports will most likely receive them in their school. However, there is a serious discrepancy between youth that require and those that receive psychological supports in public schools. This reality is even more pronounced in urban settings and with youth of color. Untreated mental health issues impact a multitude of life domains—only one of which is school achievement. For decades, the public school system at federal and state levels has focused reform efforts on a single developmental competency (i.e., academic skill) to the detriment and underdevelopment of other interdependent competencies (e.g., social-emotional skills [self-awareness, self-management and regulation, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making]). Social and emotional skills are considered both a universal prevention against future psychological disturbances as well as core components in the treatment of many psychological disorders. Promoting social-emotional skills, however, requires the purposive establishment of a school climate that fosters such skills. The present study aimed to impact social-emotional factors and school climate by encouraging the participation of local stakeholders (i.e., teachers, parents, administrators, and students themselves) in problem solving and decision-making about how best to ensure school conditions foster the development of social and emotional competence. Analyses focused on both the creation of a plan for school climate reform as well as local perceptions of the facilitating and inhibiting factors of engaging in this process in an urban public school.