Exploring ASCD's Whole Child Tenet - Safe: What does it look like in practice?

Updated: Aug 12, 2018


Shasta Looper and Thomas McAuliff, 2017-2018 SCASCD Emerging Leaders

Since 2007, ASCD and our state affiliate, South Carolina ASCD (SCASCD), have served as advocates for educating the Whole Child. The Whole Child Approach serves to expand the narrative around education from focusing solely on academic achievement to include tenets that promote the long term development and success of all children. Through the Whole Child initiative, ASCD helps educators, families, community members, and policymakers move from a vision about educating the whole child to sustainable, collaborative action. ASCD is joined in this effort by Whole Child Partner organizations representing the education, arts, health, policy, and community sectors. The Whole Child Education has 6 tenants that focus on different components of the students and the adults in a school. The 6 tenants are:

  1. Healthy - Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.

  2. Safe - Each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.

  3. Engaged - Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.

  4. Supported - Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.

  5. Challenged - Each student is challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment.

In our spring 2018 board meeting, our Emerging Leader group met to discuss what these tenets look like in practice. We chose to focus on the Whole Child tenet of Safe and to highlight the progress that Dent Middle School in Richland School District Two is making as well as efforts made by Greenville County Schools.


While no one school is doing everything, we all can do something and take tangible steps to make our schools safer. Safety is a tenant that is being discussed across our nation, but what does that look like when we think about the safety of the whole child? School environments should be physically and emotionally safe for students and adults. The belief of SCASCD is that all children and adults deserve this type of environment. Below, we explore different components of safety and how that may look across our state.

  • School buildings,grounds, playground equipment, and vehicles are secure and meet all established safety and environmental standards. In schools around South Carolina you would see custodial staff and Watch D.O.G.S. caring for the students of our state.

  • A physical, emotional, academic, and social school climate is safe, friendly, and student-centered. For example, some schools have community partners that provide bags of food for students to eat over the weekend. This allows students who might not get receive a meal outside of school to be fed during extended time away from the campus. Adult mentors and older student mentors can often been seen during the lunchtime mentoring and building safe, positive relationships with students. Drills and routines are engrained in safety protocols for students.

  • School staff, students, and family members establish and maintain school and classroom behavioral expectations, rules, and routines that teach students how to manage their behavior and help students improve problem behavior. Schools develop school-wide behavioral expectations that are consistent among grade levels. These create physical and emotional safety for all learners. At Dent Middle School, they “SHINE like Diamonds” through their Diamond Standards of Expectations. These stand for:

    • Success from the Start

    • Have respect for all

    • Ignite your curiosity

    • Nuture a safe and positive environment

    • Exercise good judgement

Positive referrals are based on these standards from students who exhibit these qualities. Watch this video to see how Dent Middle School has implemented their school wide behavior expectations.

  • Schools teach, model, and provide opportunities to practice social-emotional skills, including effective listening, conflict resolution, problem solving, personal reflection and responsibility, and ethical decision making. Restorative circles are used in schools to promote communication in problem solving. These “town hall” style meeting are comprised of the students who were affected by the issue, person responsible for the issue, and third party class members who are may or may not be affected by the action. This is a place where problems are resolved and solutions happen. Capturing Kids Hearts and Compassionate Schools are programs where students work with a classroom teacher to design their classroom in a way that is supportive of their social-emotional needs.

  • The school physical plant is attractive; is structurally sound; has good internal (hallways) and external (pedestrian, bicycle, and motor vehicle) traffic flow, including for those with special needs; and is free of defects. Part of focusing on the whole child also means involving the whole staff to ensure that the physical building is a safe place for learning. From the indoor facility to the outside campus, plant engineers and their staff take time to ensure that students are safe as they arrive to school, while they are in the building, and as they exit.

  • Students feel valued, respected, and cared for and are motivated to learn. Many schools in our state have experienced specified training with Capturing Kids Hearts and Compassionate Schools. These two professional development opportunities focus on building relationships with students that will allow them to feel safe emotionally and therefore motivated to learn, but also give educators tangible strategies to address adverse childhood experiences that are often roadblocks to success. Both also assist schools in providing students, staff, and family members opportunities for learning and support when teaching students how to manage their own behavior and reinforcing expectations, rules, and routines.

  • Our teachers and staff develop and implement academic and behavioral interventions based on an understanding of child and adolescent development and learning theories. Greenville County Schools is implementing a systematic approach to developing and implementing academic and behavioral intervention plans for students in twenty schools in the district based on the OnTrack Greenville grant that was implemented in three Title 1 middle schools beginning in 2015. The system identifies students who are showing need in areas such as attendance, behavior, and course performance. Teams meet weekly to discuss individual students and to develop plans to improve all of these areas.

When all of these components are in place in our school buildings, students can’t help but feel safe academically, emotionally, and socially.

For more information on the ASCD Whole Child Tenet of Safe, please visit ASCD Whole Child Tenet: Safe.


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Making the Case for the Whole Child

Why is now the time to advocate for the whole child? Common sense and research tell us that children must be healthy to achieve at high levels. Yet, at a time when 35% of low-income preschoolers are overweight or obese, 40% of elementary schools have eliminated or are considering eliminating recess, and a time when 38% of U.S. students report always feeling safe at school, and only 17 states have anti- bullying statutes, should we say anymore? Find out more at the Whole Child Resource Clearinghouse that can help you make the case for the whole child. Visit CLICK HERE.


ASCD InfoBrief on the Whole Child

Are you familiar with the five principles of the Whole Child Compact? What existing policies and practices support the goal of healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged children? Where does policy and practice fall short of the whole child mission? The latest issue of Infobrief answers these questions while reviewing the objectives of ASCD's Whole Child Initiative, promising practices from around the world, and the immense work left to be done. Read more at CLICK HERE.


Starting the Whole Child Conversation

To facilitate informal group conversations about the whole child, ASCD has launched the Whole Child Community Conversations Project, which enables groups to explore how to work together to support this important initiative. Two versions of the facilitator's guide are available. One targets local community engagement and the other, student engagement. Learn how to engage your community in a conversation about educating the whole child. For more information and to download the facilitator's guides, visit CLICK HERE.

Is your school leading the way to ensure that each child is Healthy, Safe, Supported,Challenged and Engaged?


Consider applying for South Carolina ASCD's Whole Child Award. You can find our 2018-2019 Whole Child Application here https://www.scascd.org/wholechild

About the authors:


Shasta Looper is currently a 4th grade ELA/Social Studies teacher at Blythe Academy of the Languages in Greenville County Schools.  She has served as a Balanced Literacy Coach through the OnTrack Greenville grant with Public Education Partners and Greenville County Schools and a TAP Master Teacher in Tennessee.  Shasta has classroom experience with grades 2-8 and has served as a teacher consultant for the Upstate Writing Project and an adjunct technology trainer for Greenville County Schools.  In 2012, she was awarded the Milken Educator Award for her work inside and outside of the school setting.  Shasta is passionate about literacy, specifically creating engaging environments that develop students as readers.


Thomas McAuliff currently serves as an Instructional Technologist for Anderson School District One. He is an SCASCD Emerging Leader and was District TOY Top 10 Finalist in Greenville County. He has also earned Google Level 1 and Level 2 Educator certifications. Thomas is excited to infuse learning and technology into instruction to engage learners...both teachers and students! His passion is to continue to elevate and celebrate the greatest profession on the planet.

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