Answering the President's Call

President Biden has called on the nation to develop and strengthen evidence-informed strategies that prevent and respond to hate-based threats, bullying, and harassment in schools.

On September 15, 2022, the United We Stand Summit ( was held at the White House to bring national attention to the need to counter the destructive effects of hate-fueled violence on our democracy and public safety; mobilize diverse sectors of society and communities across the country to respond to these dangers; and put forward a shared, inclusive, bipartisan vision for a more united America.

United We Stand

In recent years, our nation has endured a disturbing series of hate-motivated attacks. Oak Creek, Pittsburgh, El Paso, Poway, Orlando, Charleston, Atlanta, Buffalo, and more. Each one of these incidents has left innocent people dead and communities shattered. The cumulative impact of these manifestations tears at the soul of our Nation.

When ordinary Americans cannot freely participate in the basic activities of everyday life — like going to school, shopping at the grocery store, or praying at their house of worship — without the fear of being targeted and killed for who they are, our democracy — and the very fabric of our society — is at risk.

A Fact Sheet distributed at the United We Stand Summit outlined expectations for Federal agencies to respond to the President’s call. The Department of Education has two primary tasks: 1) Support educational authorities and educational institutions to improve their ability to prevent hate-based threats and bullying and recover from hate-based violence and 2) Enhance overall school safety and climate.

Free to Learn

The Department of Education is carrying out its United We Stand commitments under the new initiative “Free to Learn.” This will be a coordinated effort between the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Initiative to Enhance School Safety; Access to Mental Health Services; and Promote Positive, Inclusive School Climate.

Vision: All students learn and achieve their unique potential for success and thriving within schools that promote and ensure in-person and online safety, mental health, and positive school climates.

Call to Action

The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE) is leading the effort on the call to action. There are three ways to participate. Click here to join the call to action and be part of future webinars and community of practice events.

Mission: To galvanize States, districts, schools, public health agencies, and local communities to understand, implement, and sustain evidence-based practices and policies that support school safety, mental health, and positive school climates and prevent bullying, violence, and hate so all students are free to learn.

Why Free to Learn

Safe and supportive schools are proven by decades of rigorous research to be among the very best places for young people to learn, develop, and thrive. Indeed, schools that foster a sense of safety and belonging among students and adults alike are also the most effective in terms of supporting academic success and social, emotional, and physical wellness and mental health. Recent advances in the science of learning and development affirm that when students learn and grow within school environments that foster a strong sense of relational trust, safety, and belonging, they are able to summon the cognitive, social, and emotional capacity that enables deep and powerful learning, the kind of learning that leads to success in school and postsecondary and career pursuits. Further, students, educators, and families overwhelmingly prioritize supportive and healthy learning environments that are free not only from physical violence but also any forms of discrimination, harassment, and hate — in person or online. There is near-universal demand for schools where all students, no matter who they are, are safe, valued, respected, and cared for. Further, schools that foster safety and belonging contribute positively toward addressing the nation’s youth mental health crisis along with providing engaging environments that facilitate and enhance student achievement.

Bullying is a serious safety problem facing students in the nation’s schools. As reported by the National Center for Education Statistics, millions of students regularly experience bullying in their schools, which substantially increases their risk for negative academic, social, emotional, and mental and physical health outcomes. Bullying also increases the risks to students of experiencing depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Sustained exposure to bullying and negative school climates can also lead to more serious anti-social behaviors, including frequent discipline issues, substance abuse, and aggressive behaviors inside and outside of school. Further, exclusionary discipline practices, which are enabled by negative school climates that can also engender a culture of bullying, lead to disproportionate suspensions and expulsions from school, particularly among students of color and students with disabilities, depriving them of productive and restorative learning opportunities and increasing the risk of exposure to the school-to-prison pipeline. Bullying and cyberbullying, exclusionary discipline, and unsafe and unsecure conditions in schools are correlated with negative school climates and mental health issues, resulting in an unnecessary and unsustainable waste of human potential that our country needs now and into the future.

While waiting in line to board the school bus, a young female student gives the bus driver a high-five

Strategies for Creating a Positive Learning Environment

This fact sheet from 21st Century Learning Centers and You for Youth shares six strategies that educators, staff, and administrators can use to create a positive learning environment for the entire school community. Each strategy shares concise guidance, best practice tips, and actionable examples of how to foster trust, connection, and positive interactions with students, parents, colleagues, and community members.

Young entrepreneur and colleague analyzing data

Using Data to Promote Equity in School Discipline

This training series helps schools and school districts assess and improve their discipline policies and practices. The series includes information, activities, and resources focused on using data to analyze current practices, identifying evidence-based interventions, developing an action plan to address policies that are disproportionately impacting students of color and students with disabilities, and integrating ongoing continuous improvement practices.

Lonely preteen schoolgirl looking through the window while at school

Addressing Race-based Hate Speech and Microaggressive Behavior in Schools

This resource from the American Psychological Association focuses on encouraging teachers to be change agents in their communities regarding race-based hate speech, jokes, and/or subtle prejudice-oriented references intended to insult and harm students. The resource deciphers the differences between the many components of both race-based hate speech and microaggression, provides realistic examples, and elaborates on why microaggression and race-based hate speech should be addressed in schools.

Court gavel on rainbow flag colored pages of the United States Constitution -- gay rights concept

Using Title IX and Other Policies to Support and Affirm LGBTQIA+ Students

This brief from the Great Lakes Equity Center, tailored for school and district administrators, provides information on understanding and complying with Federal legislative protections for LGBTQIA+ students. The brief offers resources and guidance for developing inclusive school policies that support LGBTQIA+ students and concludes with a discussion of how administrators can navigate the implementation of these policies and their successful communication to community stakeholders.

children hands in colors.

Bullying Prevention

In this Web page, the Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports outlines the foundational elements of bullying prevention and describes how bullying prevention efforts can be integrated into a tiered framework. Supplemental resources are also offered, with step-by-step guidance, tools, and lesson plans to help schools implement bullying prevention systems.

Illustration of teenager girl in depression Mental stress from messages on social networks The concept of online bullying in smartphones

Cyberbullying in Schools: An Educator’s Equitable Choice

This issue of Equity Express by the Midwest and Plains Equity Assistance Center describes a cyberbullying scenario at the intersection of religion and offers educators three potential responses to the incident. The resource outlines the impacts of each potential response and provides supplemental resources on equitable approaches to cyberbullying prevention and intervention.

Submit Your Lessons Learned and Best Practices

Have a lessons learned or best practice focused on improving school safety and transforming school climate and mental health services? Visit the Best Practices Submission page to view details on submission requirements, and then e-mail to share your lessons learned or best practice.

Provide Feedback

Have feedback to share on a resource accessed on the Clearinghouse site? We want to hear from you. Select the button below to share your feedback with the U.S. Department of Education and the Clearinghouse team.