An Exploration of the Relationship Between Social-Emotional Learning and Office Discipline Referral Frequency



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High rates of student misbehavior within the American public school system are a chronic problem for many public schools. Public schools sometimes address the rising problem of student misbehavior in ineffective, unproductive, and often harmful ways; they punish and exclude students from the academic setting, thus fostering resentment in students who misbehave, wasting school resources, contributing to the “school-to-prison pipeline,” increasing disproportionality, and setting students up for negative long-term outcomes. Furthermore, schools may fail to assess for, identify, and address the skill deficits that lead students to misbehave. The implementation of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) as a component of positive behavior supports, as well as the integration of universal screening for students to determine the risk of future school misbehavior, could help schools address discipline problems more proactively, effectively, and efficiently. The current study sought to examine whether SEL is a predictor of office discipline referral (ODR) frequency by using archival data of teacher ratings of elementary, middle, and high school students’ social-emotional learning skills. The results obtained from the data analyses indicated that SEL competencies predicted ODR frequency in the elementary school, middle school, and high school samples. Taken together with the existing and emerging literature base, these findings suggest that SEL interventions might contribute to decreases in ODR frequency. These findings are encouraging to school psychologists seeking to understand, prevent, and decrease the frequency of ODRs and their negative consequences.



Office discipline referrals, student misbehavior, social-emotional learning, social-emotional, students, SELSI, Social Emotional Learning Skills Inventory, school discipline, disciplinary practices, social skills, emotional skills, emotion regulation, elementary school, middle school, high school, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision-making, multitiered systems of support, universal screening