Safe and Healthy Students

One of the three purposes of the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) program is to improve school conditions as a means of improving academic achievement. Ensuring all students are healthy and feel safe and supported is central to the shared work across programs in the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA).


What Is It?

The term ‘‘safe and healthy” refers to a school environment that fosters a safe and supportive environment for learning, student physical and mental health, and any other activities that cut across both those areas as determined by the State or local educational agency, with the purpose of providing all students access to safe and healthy educational experience. A safe and healthy school environment may be described as a “positive school climate”, and the components of a positive school climate as “conditions for learning”. You can read more about school climate and conditions for learning on our School Climate webpage.

What Are the Benefits of Promoting Student Health and Safety?

The premise of safe and healthy students is that if schools want students to succeed academically (and in life), the conditions for learning must reflect that goal. Research shows that when schools and districts effectively focus on creating a safe, healthy, and supportive environment (positive school climate), students are more likely to engage in the curriculum, achieve academically, and develop positive relationships; students are less likely to exhibit problem behaviors; and teacher turnover is lower and teacher satisfaction is higher.

How Can Educational Stakeholders Promote Student Health and Safety?

The SSAE guidance offers many examples of how educational stakeholders can promote student health and safety in three key areas. Below is a table identifying examples of strategies that fall under each of the three areas:

Safe and Supportive Schools

Student Physical and Mental Health

Cross-Cutting Activities

  • Bullying prevention
  • Relationship building skills
  • Dropout prevention
  • Re-entry programs and transition services for justice-involved youth
  • School readiness and academic success
  • Child sexual abuse awareness and prevention
  • Reducing use of exclusionary discipline practices and promoting supportive school discipline
  • Suicide prevention
  • Drug and violence prevention
  • Health and safety practices in school athletic programs
  • School-based health and mental health services
  • Healthy, active lifestyle
  • Nutritional education
  • Physical activities
  • Trauma-informed classroom management
  • Preventing use of alcohol, tobacco, smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes
  • Chronic disease management
  • Mentoring and School Counseling
  • Schoolwide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports
  • Pay for Success Initiatives

Selection of Related Resources

U.S. Department of Education | Office for Civil Rights | April 2018

School Climate and Safety Issue Brief. 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection highlights on school climate and safety factors in the educational environment.

Access the Brief

SAMHSA | June 2018

Addressing the Risk of Violent Behavior in Youth: Know the Signs of Youth Violence and How to Identify and Reduce Risk in Schools. PowerPoint presentation materials school leaders can use to inform, and help classroom teachers, counselors and other staff understand the basic facts about youth violence.

Access the Materials

Federal Resources


Asthma Management in Schools

  • Environmental Protection Agency offers valuable information for all school staff, especially school nurses, teachers and maintenance staff, on how to identify and control common environmental factors in schools that may trigger asthma episodes. Download the Managing Asthma in the School Environment document to learn how you can help control asthma at your school and boost student performance.

Bullying and Harassment Prevention

  • provides information from various government agencies on what bullying is, what cyberbullying is, who is at risk, and how to prevent and respond to bullying.

Drug and Violence Prevention

  • is a Federal website related to creating, maintaining, and strengthening effective youth programs. Included are facts, funding information, and tools to assess community assets, generate maps of local and Federal resources, and search for evidence-based youth programs.

Healthy Students

  • CDC Healthy Schools is a Federal website with numerous resources to assist school districts and schools in creating healthy learning environments, including information related to nutrition, physical activity, obesity prevention, and the management of chronic conditions. There are also professional development and training materials for school personnel.

Human Trafficking

Indoor-Air Quality (IAQ)

  • EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit  guides schools and districts with reducing exposure to indoor environmental contaminants in schools through voluntary adoption of sound and effective IAQ management practices. The Action Kit provides best practices, industry guidelines, sample policies and IAQ management plans for improving indoor air problems at little or no cost using straightforward activities and in-house staff. 

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

  • Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)  was established by the U.S. Department of Education to define, develop, implement, and evaluate a multi-tiered approach to technical assistance that improves the capacity of States, districts, and schools to establish, scale-up, and sustain the PBIS framework. Emphasis is given to the impact of implementing PBIS on the social, emotional and academic outcomes for students with disabilities.

Re-entry Programs and Transition Services

  • Virginia’s Department of Justice sponsors a program to provide regional Reentry Advocates to help create a seamless reentry process, connect youth to employment and vocational services and to link youth and families with services in the community. Reentry Advocates partner with local government agencies, local school districts and community stakeholders to connect youth and their families with benefits and resources, employability services and skills training and to connect them with positive adult role models. 

Relationship-building Skills

Safe Schools

School Climate

School-Based Mental Health Services

  • Center for School Mental Health strengthens policies and programs in school mental health to improve learning and promote success for America's youth. CSMH advances evidence-based care in schools and collaborates at local, State, national, and international levels to advance research, training, policy, and practice in school mental health.

Suicide Prevention

NCSSLE Developed Resources

Products and Tools

  • School Climate Improvement Resource Package. This resource package is designed to help schools and districts improve school climate. It will include a variety of resources to meet a range of needs among stakeholders interested in improving school climate.
  • ED School Climate Surveys (EDSCLS). This surveying tool allows States, local districts, and schools to collect and act on reliable, nationally-validated school climate data in real-time. The EDSCLS builds on federal initiatives and research, which recommended that the Department work on the issue of school climate. The surveying tool is free of charge and can be downloaded on the NCSSLE website.


  • School Climate. This webpage defines school climate and discusses its impact on student learning. The webpage also provides more information on NCSSLE's role in promoting positive school climate through technical assistance and product development.

  • Engagement. This webpage defines engagement and discusses its impact on student learning and overall school climate. The page provides relevant resource and research.

  • Environment. This webpage defines environment and discusses its impact on student learning and overall school climate. The page provides relevant resource and research.

  • Safety. This webpage defines safety and discusses its impact on student learning and overall school climate. The page provides relevant resource and research.

Blog Posts


Featured Resources