he National School Climate Council (2007) defines school climate as “norms, values, and expectations that support people feeling socially, emotionally and physically safe” (p.4). School climate is a product of the inter
personal relationships among students, families, teachers, support staff, and administrators. Positive school climate is fostered through a shared vision of respect and engagement across the educational system. Emphasis is also placed on the collective sense of safety and care for the school’s physi
cal environment. A related concept is school culture, which refers to the “unwritten rules and expectations” among the school staff (Gruenert, 2008).
Although there is no universally agreed upon set of core domains or features, the National School Climate Center identifies five elements of school climate: (1) safety (e.g., rules and norms, physical security, social-emotional security); (2) teaching and learning
(e.g., support for learning, social and civic learning); (3) interpersonal relationships
(e.g., respect for diversity, social support from adults, social support from peers); (4) institutional environment
(e.g., school connected
ness, engagement, physical surroundings); and (5) staff rela
(leadership, professional relationships). Similarly, the U.S. Department of Education’s Safe and Supportive
Schools model of school climate (see Figure) includes three inter-related domains or features of student engagement
relationships, respect for diversity, and school participation), safety (e.g., social-emotional safety, physical safety, substance use), and the school environment
(e.g., physical environment, academic environment, wellness, and disciplinary environ
ment) (also see Bradshaw et al., 2013).
Why is School Climate Important?
positive school climate is recognized as an important target for school reform and improving behavioral, academic, and mental health outcomes for students
(Thapa et al., 2012). Specifically, schools with positive cli
mates tend to have less student discipline problems (Cohen &
Geier, 2010) and aggressive and violent behavior (Gregory et al., 2010), and fewer high school suspensions (Lee et al., 2011).
Research has also shown associations between school cli
mate and lower levels of alcohol and drug use (LaRusso