SEL Alternative for Student Discipline

Social emotional learning is the “buzzword” in education in regards to classroom behavior and student discipline. According to CASEL, SEL is defined as, “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions”. If you’ve been involved in education at any point in your life, you would hopefully recognize that this “buzzword” is welcoming to the modern day classroom.

My time as a K-12 student was drastically different than what exists today. Looking back to the early 2000s we didn’t have cell phones & social media (to name a few) as daily distractions. Even reflecting on my first years as a teacher in 2007, it’s vastly different. Students have different pressures and have grown up in a different world. Therefore, the way we educate and discipline them, has to be different.

I’ve been blessed to work in the Discipline Office for the last two years as a Vice Principal. Much of the first year was very standard in regards to student discipline. I would have to assign consequences that were pretty black and white. I would counsel students as much as I could, however, it didn’t feel like we as a school were supporting them as best we could. At the end of the school year we evaluated our student discipline data and we found that our area of growth was in regards to Education Code 48900a1, fighting. So, upon the encouragement of my Principal, we (Cabinet & Cohort of Teachers) set out to develop a school wide SEL alternative to help support students in regards to this specific behavior. We rolled out our SEL plan at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. Here is what we came up with:

CRASH (Conflict Resolution And Social Help)

It consisted of 3 Tiers to allow for progressive discipline, if the behavior continued.

Tier 1 & 2 included 7 units that focused on managing emotions, setting goals, showing empathy, building positive relationships and making responsible decisions. The difference between the two was the duration of the tier. If a student was placed in Tier 1, they would attend and once complete, they would be able to exit the program. If a student was placed in Tier 2, they would have to attend a mandatory five days. Tier 3 would result in a Home Suspension.

The units for Tier 1 were as followed:

1. Safety

Assignments:  Write down 3 things at school that make you feel the most safe/valued/appreciated.  That gets sent to the office. Now write a letter to the person at school who makes you feel the most safe/valued/appreciated and how you are going to try to follow their example and makes others feel safe/valued/appreciated.  They would speak with a cabinet member about the 3 good things they wrote. Students may choose which cabinet member to call to see if they can meet with one of their choice once they have finished their 3 note.

Parent communication:  Compose text to your parent/guardian.    Explain the program you are in. Get approval from Program Coordinator.  Once it is approved the students sends the text to their parent. If the student or parent does not have a cell phone they must use letter format instead.  The text must include: What the program is about? How is it going to help them? What they are going to do in the future to prevent ever getting into another school fight.  The Program Coordinator takes a screenshot of the text and prints it.

2. Accountability

Assignments & Parent communication:  Students must write an email in Google Docs to:  1.) Program Coordinator, 2.) Their parent. 3.) Their favorite teacher.  The email document must include: “Confession” (Explaining what they did that placed them into CRASH).  “Owning it” (clearly explaining what happened and why it was the student’s fault. Taking full responsibility for what they did).  “Change” (Explaining what they are going to do different to avoid going back to CRASH). If the parent does not have an email address the Program Coordinator will make another copy of the document and have it mailed home.

3. Social Help from the Good Guys

Assignments:  Complete EdPuzzle videos (provided by our District Police Department). Student then completed a 5 year and 20 year reflection of where they would be if they continued in the same behavior pattern.

Communication:  Students completed a Google Survey to reflect upon the EdPuzzle Videos.  Students who complete are offered a school police sticker.

4. Anger Management

Assignments:  Students must read over the menu 10 techniques for managing anger.  They must pick 3 that they feel best suit them. Come to the office and speak with a cabinet member about how they can use those 3 strategies to avoid issues in the future.

Parent Communication:  Student must write a text to their parent/guardian explaining the 3 new strategies to deal with anger that they learned that day.  They must show the text to the Program Coordinator and they takes a screenshot of the text and prints it before the student sends it.  If the student or parent does not have a cell phone they will use a letter instead.

5. Conflict Resolution

Assignments: Students would read information about Conflict Resolution and then complete a quiz to see how well they mastered the curriculum.

Parent Communication:  Student was then sent to counseling (with the student they fought if at all possible) to meet with a Counselor or School Psychologist about the Conflict that resulted in them being in the program.

6. Social Skills (with WEB–Where Everyone Belongs)

Assignments and Peer Communication:  

  1. Listen to WEB presentation
  2. Break into small groups (if the student you fought is in CRASH they are in your group)
  3. Create a poster “Where everyone belongs”(Social Skills).
  4. Present it to CRASH staff.
  5. The group goes out and puts the poster up for other students to benefit from it.

7. Goal Setting, Giving Back to the School & Checking Out

Info & Assignments: Students would fill out a goal form for the next six months. Students then spent at least 1hr of the day helping one of the following (student’s choice):  Librarian, Custodian or Classroom Teacher. If students would rather not help any of those staff members they must create a poster which could be hung around campus to help kids avoid conflict and fighting.  Students then sent to check-out with the admin who suspended them. The Admin will tear up the suspension, change it to CRASH, congratulate them and send them back to CRASH to finish the day.

Parent Communication:  When everything is complete the student and the Program Coordinator will call the parent on the phone and let them know they have completed the program and will return to normal classes the next day.

Tier 2 took each step and required the student to reflect upon it more, or dive deeper into curriculum.

Our administration team had several opportunities this year to share our program with other schools within our district. What we learned from our training, that it is not a one size fits all. In order for your school site to reap the benefits, the program has to be specifically targeted to your students.

Please use this template to help you navigate your SEL Plan:


Our percentages of fighting was down by 68%. We found that many students who went through the program were one-timers. A small percentage of students went through both Tiers of the program. Overall, upon reflecting on our SEL plan, we found it effective and worthwhile. We were left with contemplating how we can create other SEL programs to meet other Education Codes.

As you begin this journey, I urge you to make sure you have all stakeholders on board. By gaining input from all stakeholders, it will help drive your program. Keep students at the forefront of all decision making, and you’re bound to reap the benefits.

If you’d like to submit your plan to the Form provided below, I’d love to see what you are doing at your school site.