Learn how a high-poverty district is using SEL to lower discipline rates, reach students, and turn classrooms into encouraging spaces.

How we used SEL to transform discipline

Learn how a high-poverty school is using SEL to reach students and turn classrooms into encouraging spaces


Springdale School District serves more than 23,000 students across 31 schools. Southwest Junior High School serves 640 students in both 8th and 9th grades.

Biggest Challenge

We are a high poverty school (over 70 percent), and many of our students have been exposed to significant trauma. Because we didn’t have tools to navigate the behaviors and emotions that can result from trauma, such as aggression and defiance, students and teachers alike were left feeling overwhelmed. Both students and teachers needed more composure. We needed a way to teach students personal responsibility for their behavior, a goal that we were not achieving with traditional discipline.

Related content: 3 ways to combine trauma-informed teaching with SEL


Myself and a small group of our school’s teachers attended a two-day workshop about Conscious Discipline, a trauma-informed social and emotional learning (SEL) program that addresses school climate, discipline, and teaching SEL skills through daily interactions. It provides adults with “powers” and “skills” to remain calm in moments of conflict and see behavior differently, so that we can choose an effective response.

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