Engaging Students in School Climate Improvement

A Student Voice Strategy

Authored by: Meagan O’Malley , Adam Voight , Jo Ann Izu

Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools

Print publication date:  March  2014
Online publication date:  February  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415621854
eBook ISBN: 9780203106525
Adobe ISBN: 9781136258398


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The recent occurrence of several high-profile episodes of violence committed by young people in school and local community settings has reinvigorated a national conversation around the need for prevention strategies that reduce or eliminate experiences that hasten youths’ feelings of isolation and alienation from peers and adults within their communities. School climate improvement strategies seek to prevent violent, aggressive, and uncivil experiences at school through the cultivation of environments that foster positive interpersonal experiences for youth. These school climate improvement strategies are heterogeneous in nature; some strategies, such as social and emotional learning (SEL) approaches (Greenberg et al., 2003), seek to improve students’ ability to regulate internal emotional states and to use communication strategies to prevent and/or intervene with peer conflicts, while other systems-level strategies, such as positive behavior intervention and supports (PBIS; Sugai & Horner, 2002), aim to create transparent and consistent behavioral reinforcement systems within schools in order to help reduce the use of punitive control structures that cultivate toxic climates. Youth voice strategies complement SEL and PBIS-type approaches for school climate improvement by positioning students as agents of school leadership and change, recognizing that students want to attend safe and civil schools and that, with adult support and encouragement, they can take action to propel positive school environments.

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