Research shows that SEL is a Critical Piece of Violence Prevention Programs in Schools and Communities

Over the past decade, many school districts across the country have embraced social-emotional learning (SEL) programs to promote positive behavior among students and address conduct problems such as bullying. The COVID-19 pandemic further popularized these programs because remote learning and isolation caused many students to suffer both academically and emotionally. SEL programs have shown potential to address yet another challenge: They can serve to combat school- and community-based violence as an integral part of violence prevention programs in schools and districts.

Concerns about school- and community-based violence are widespread. While data show that incidents of bullying decreased during the pandemic, that trend reversed as students returned to in-person learning. School shootings continue to impact communities nationwide, and violent crime such as homicides affects increasingly younger individuals.


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School-based SEL programs can deter violence by helping youth develop social skills and self-awareness. They shift the focus toward positive student behavior and away from negative attitudes and behaviors that can result in conflict. And there is evidence that SEL programs can be an important part of violence prevention programs in schools and the surrounding community. One evaluation of more than 200 school-based SEL programs showed that the programs helped students to not only improve relationships and their academics but also reduce conduct problems, substance use, and emotional distress. By empowering students to live lives of passion and purpose, SEL can positively change the way youth think about themselves, so they make positive choices for their future.

How SEL supports violence prevention programs in schools and the larger community
Educators and advocates who have developed SEL programs and implemented them in schools and districts have seen the results in terms of improved student behavior as well as significant decreases in community violence.

While SEL programs vary, there are several commonalities and overlapping strategies in successful school-based programs that have effectively helped young people manage their emotions, feel connected, and have healthy relationships with themselves and others. Some of these strategies include:

  • Addressing the mindset of youth
  • Helping students separate impulse from action
  • Increasing emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Addressing all students
  • Showing data-drive results


To learn more about how SEL can be used to support violence prevention programs in schools, including the 10 ways that the most successful school based SEL programs proactively focus on prevention and root causes in their efforts to reduce violence in schools, download the resource, Using SEL to Counter School and Community Violence.

Violence Prevention Programs in Schools