Social-emotional Wellbeing

School Counseling Plan

In order to provide all students with equitable supports, NYCDOE is committed to the development and implementation of a comprehensive school counseling plan. NYCDOE’s counseling plan is grounded in the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) national model where school counselors are provided with information about prevention, interventions, system supports and activities to meet the needs of all students.

NYCDOE is committed to providing students with the scaffolds they need for their academic, career and college readiness and personal development while preparing them to be responsible members of society. NYCDOE will support school counselors with ongoing professional development and resources to ensure safety and restorative approaches to behavior, develop collaborative and trusting relationships, promote equity and student voice, and cultivate equitable access for emotional, mental and physical wellness.

School counselors, along with their schools, will regularly review and revise plans by collecting and analyzing data. NYCDOE counseling plans are living documents which can be revised at any time, therefore schools and counselors must use current progress monitoring structures and revise the program throughout the year, as needed. 

NYCDOE will provide schools and counselors with best practice guidelines and ensure that schools review plans at least four times a year, before counseling plans are submitted to the Borough/Citywide Offices for review and approval. Executive Superintendents will meet twice a year with their School Counseling Advisory Councils to monitor and evaluate plans.

The purpose of the School Counseling Advisory Council is to ensure that all stakeholders of the school community are represented, the role of the school counselor is clearly defined, and students have access to a comprehensive school counseling program that will address their academic development, personal/social-emotional growth, and college and career readiness. 

Each Executive Superintendent’s School Counseling Advisory Council will be comprised of:

  • At least one parent representing each district under an Executive Superintendent;
  • At least three counselors (representing the elementary, middle, and high school levels); 
  • Three school building administrators (representing the elementary, middle, and high school levels); 
  • A Director of Student Services; 
  • Two counseling managers from the Borough Office Student Services Team (who support school counselors at the elementary, middle and high school levels); 
  • Two members of the Office of Mental Health; and 
  • Two student members 

Student Supports

As stated by the CDC, a return to in-person schooling provides students with greater access to a variety of mental health and social services. Without in-person schooling, many students may lose access to vital services. Even outside the context of school closures, young people often do not receive the mental health treatment they need.

In alignment with NYSED guidance, supporting student and staff social-emotional needs across school communities (remote and blended) must be a top priority in order to create the mental, social, and emotional foundations for academic learning to occur. Social-emotional learning (SEL) can provide stabilization and consistency for all students during this challenging time.

Addressing the social-emotional needs of school communities through trauma-informed approaches to teaching and learning must be a top priority for school re-opening and throughout the year. To advance this priority, the NYCDOE is leading a broad citywide crisis recovery plan that includes support for staff at all levels to understand trauma and build trauma-informed approaches into their practices and plans for the coming school year. NYCDOE is committed to partnering with communities to create trauma-informed schools that offer robust SEL and mental health support through a tiered infrastructure, with a focus on community building and resilience. 

In order to fulfill the vision for comprehensive mental health and SEL supports across all DOE schools in SY 2020-21, the NYCDOE will implement the following core components, all of which are aligned to best practice recommendations for school re-opening and general best practices for student social-emotional and mental wellness:

  • Trauma-Informed Care
  • Bridge to School Plan 
  • Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) Infrastructure 
  • Strengthen Tier 1 SEL (Explicit SEL Instruction and SEL-Academic Integration) 
  • Targeted Mental Health Supports 

Trauma Informed Care

NYCDOE cares deeply about the social-emotional health and wellbeing of NYCDOE’s children, families, and staff. We recognize the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting repercussions across New York City have had significant impacts.

In response to this, through cross-divisional and inter-agency partnerships, the NYCDOE will implement a comprehensive, multi-part professional learning series that empowers teachers with foundational knowledge and basic skills of trauma-informed care. This is for all staff serving students from Birth to 5 and K-12 populations. Anchored in a continuum from trauma-aware to trauma-informed, this series will include foundational elements to be completed between July and September 2020 with the possibility of supplemental sessions interspersed throughout the school year.

These trauma modules include examination of equity and cultural considerations, the importance of adult self-care, and actionable trauma-informed strategies for classroom teachers and all support staff. School leaders will also participate in a supplemental training series that offers specialized content for framing trauma-informed care in a broader school vision and how to establish systems of support for implementation. 

Bridge to School Plan 

In order to support the long-term mental health of students, families, and educators, schools must prioritize SEL and wellness during the initial re-opening transition, ensuring that all students have access to a foundational period of stabilization and support. This period should include opportunities to build coping skills, process grief, re-connect, build community, and orient themselves to the new dual environments and expectations.

By establishing this emotional foundation, the number of students requiring intensive clinical mental health services may be reduced. Standardizing this initial care also prevents adults from pathologizing behavior that reflects a normal stress response and prevents students from being retraumatized by a premature referral for clinical services. NYCDOE is creating school-facing resources that include sample activities and general best practices for a positive re-opening transition, with a focus on key themes of community and resilience.

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) 

NYCDOE wants to ensure that all schools are equipped to offer tiered social-emotional and mental health supports to students, as determined through a data-based decision-making process. Schools can seek supports from the NYCDOE to help build a robust MTSS infrastructure. 

Strengthen Tier 1 SEL (Explicit SEL Instruction and SEL-Academic Integration) 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, NYCDOE provided recommendations and expanded access to SEL curricula in elementary, middle, and high school through citywide expansion of Sanford Harmony, RULER, and Restorative Practices. These evidence-based models support each of the key actions identified by the Collaborative for Academic and Social-Emotional Learning (CASEL): community building, SEL-academic integration, and explicit SEL instruction. They also support a trauma- informed care approach by creating opportunities to develop positive relationships and build students’ self-regulation skills.

This year, in response to increased needs generated by COVID-19, all schools are encouraged to adopt an age- and developmentally-appropriate SEL program. Schools are encouraged to select the program that best meets the needs of their students. School teams can reference the publicly available CASEL Program Guide that evaluates additional SEL programs for use in the classroom and in explicit SEL instruction.

Integrating SEL into core academic instruction ensures that students are experiencing safe, welcoming, and culturally responsive environments, that students have daily opportunities to experience SEL within content-driven lessons, and that they are developing the SEL competencies they need in order to be successful in school and in the future. 

Targeted Mental Health Supports 

NYCDOE has a robust network of mental health services for students. Schools have established relationships with programs and resources to provide direct services, community linkages and referrals, staff coaching and training, and crisis response. These include School Mental Health Clinics, on-site CBO-provided direct counseling services (Prevention and Intervention Program, Community School Mental Health), School Mental Health Consultant Program, School Response Clinicians, Children’s Mobile Crisis Team, and NYCDOE Social Workers and School Counselors.

All programs and partners are prepared to address the expected increase in student mental health needs upon returning to schools. Students’ increased exposure to trauma and loss and the extended separation from core support systems will also necessitate expanded access to direct mental health supports (in person or through tele-therapy).

Following implementation of the aforementioned “stabilization period” and concurrently with robust Tier 1 interventions, schools will use data to make determinations about the appropriate group or individual intervention for students in need.

Staff Supports

NYCDOE has developed extensive resources to support the social-emotional needs of central and school-based staff during COVID-19. These resources complement the NYCDOE’s Supportive Environment Framework and Social Emotional Learning resources for schools.

There are also a number of citywide resources that NYCDOE has collated and shared with staff to support their health and wellbeing. These programs and opportunities are available to all New York City agency employees, and have been publicized through NYCDOE’s internal communication channels: 

  • ThriveNYC: identifies mental health services and resources for all New Yorkers, as well as those tailored to the needs of aging New Yorkers, veterans, students, and young people, as well as people harmed by violence, crime, or abuse.
  • The New York City Employee Assistance Program (EAP): The NYC EAP is offering services to promote stress management, mental health, self-care, education, referrals, and other resources. EAP services will be provided via phone, text, and/or video calls, with expanded hours from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Staff can contact the EAP by email at or call and leave a message at 212-306-7660. 
  • WorkWell NYC: New York City’s workplace wellness program. Their mission is to empower all 380,000 City employees to live healthy, active lifestyles – at work, at home, and beyond. The WorkWell NYC team offers convenient, accessible programs, tools, and resources to support employees at every stage of their wellness journey.
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