What is Social and Emotional Learning?

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions” (CASEL, 2021). Social and emotional learning provides the basis for the universal supports for behavior and wellbeing in the MTSS framework. There are 5 interrelated SEL competencies which exist across contexts and are integrated within the MTSS/SWPBIS framework in order to address the education of the whole child and facilitate their success in the classroom and the community. SEL can and should be used as a lever to address issues of equity in schools (e.g. NYSED, 2018). To see research on the benefits of SEL and the impact of SEL on students and adults, see the CASEL website.

SEL in Delaware

Social Emotional Learning has been a longstanding priority for the Delaware Department of Education. DDOE and stakeholders from districts, charters, schools, and community members, including members of the DE-PBS Project, partnered with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) in recent years to expand the integration of SEL throughout the state. This partnership led to the development of statewide SEL competencies, implementation resources, and creation of tools to support the integration of SEL into academic content areas. A practical Delaware SEL Toolkit is also available.

PBIS/SEL Alignment and Integration

Positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) provides an ideal framework for promoting social emotional competencies to improve outcomes for the whole child.

Additional SEL Resources

Mental Health and PBIS

The term ‘mental health’ refers to how we think, feel and behave; it is a critical part of our overall health (Center on PBIS, 2021). Mental health promotion is now recognized as a critical part of education, but schools struggle with how to establish a comprehensive system of mental health support. A school’s behavioral health program works best when its implemented within a tiered framework.

Tier 1: Primary Prevention (all)
At Tier 1, an integrated team of school-based and community-based clinicians focus on the social-emotional and behavioral needs of all students, often by teaching an evidence-based SEL curriculum school-wide. Data at this level include universal screening for both internalizing and externalizing concerns. Data are used to select evidence-based interventions within a continuum.

Tier 2: Secondary Prevention (some)
At Tier 2, those who have concerns follow a process to submit a request for assistance (see “Systems Development Tools” section here). Teams work to connect students to a range of targeted, group-based interventions. Clinicians coordinate and facilitate a continuum of supports to address social skills, problem-solving skills, and coping skills; including for those students who are experiencing anxiety, depression, and the impact of trauma.

Tier 3: Tertiary Prevention (few)
At Tier 3, clinicians coordinate individual interventions selected by the systems team. Teams monitor fidelity data and the interventions’ impact, regardless of who implements the intervention. Ongoing coaching, including professional development and technical assistance is provided.

MTSS and Mental Health Integration/Interconnected Systems Framework

Education and mental health leaders understand the need to establish one system of social-emotional and behavioral supports in schools. The Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF) is a way to blend PBIS with mental health supports in schools. This framework guides state, district, and community leaders to fund and modify policies and procedures to help every system work more efficiently. Clinicians – supported by integrated district structures – become part of multi-tiered school teams to address the social-emotional and behavior needs of all students. ISF expands the PBIS framework as a way to assist teams and enhance their efforts (Center on PBIS, 2021). 

Mental Health in Delaware

Project DelAWARE is a collaborative effort between the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE), The Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services (DPBHS), the UD Center for Disabilities Studies (CDS), the UD Center for Drug and Health Studies (CDHS), and three local school districts – Capital School District, Colonial School District, and Indian River School District. Funding for the project is provided through a 5 year federal SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) grant.

The overarching purpose of Project DelAWARE is to implement evidence-based mental health services in school settings within the context of the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) in order to promote wellness and resilience for school-age youth and to improve access to mental health services.

With student mental health and suicide prevention being at the forefront of priorities, the DE-PBS Project has compiled helpful resources to implement suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention strategies within a multi-tiered system of support. See below to learn more about the relationship between school-based suicide prevention and MTSS; systems, data and practices needed for comprehensive school-based suicide prevention; and exemplars of suicide prevention strategies and programs at Tier 1, 2, and 3.


Triangle shape titled "MTSS Suicide Prevention Programs and Practices". The smallest, top tier is labeled re-entry, postvention. It includes strategies to support students at high risk, individualized student interventions and supports, crisis response and community partnerships, re-entry and postvention planning. The middle tier is labeled intervention. It includes strategies to support students at risk, targeted training for specialized staff, targeted small group interventions for students, suicide risk assessment, safety planning. The bottom, universal tier is labeled prevention, data. It includes strategies to create emotionally supported and physically safe environments for students and identify students at-risk, gatekeeper training for staff, students and families, SEL interventions to enhance healthy coping and help-seeking, schoolwide initiatives to increase protective factors to reduce risk factors (e.g., bullying prevention, trauma-informed practices), student voice, screening.

Source: Center on PBIS: Developing Comprehensive, Multi-Tiered School-Based Suicide Prevention