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Building Emotional Resilience Through Effective Communication

Reactive to Proactive

Preventing violence is a much more complex idea than building barriers and physical protection. The largest barrier we face in reaching students, is their perception of school staff, administration, and the school community itself. Unfortunately, the ‘Trust Gap’ between students and school staff has become even greater over the last decade, with a steep decrease in trust of administration begins around 7th grade and continues to fall throughout high school. We need to build the students’ trust in administration by creating an environment, or ‘Changing the Culture’ for students. Letting them feel trusted, free from judgement, and supported by administration.

Below is an average of the data gathered from multiple school surveys in the U.S. of student reporting habits. As you can see 36% of incidents are reported, these are usually after the incident has occurred. When we inquired on what typed of incidents happened that were not reported, we found that there was a wide variety of things that went unreported.

Why is this important?

The 64% of unreported incidents, no matter how small of a disagreement, can all end up boiling over into violent situations in the schools hallways. In recent years the reasons given for why a student attacked another student comes down to social-emotional distress. For example, ‘she stole my boyfriend’, or ‘insulted me on social media’. If we address these social-emotional conflicts before they boil over into violence then we will see a reduction in violent incidents in the school.

“For example, some students may not report “indirect bullying”—such as being excluded or having rumors spread about them (DeVoe and Kaffenberger 2005)—because they do not view it as bullying or because they do not believe school staff would view it as such (Unnever and Cornell 2004). This study is a necessary step toward understanding more about the reporting of bullying to school officials.”

(Petrosino & Guckenburg, 2010)

Counselors and Administration are not there just to call police or social services, but instead there to figure out the best path forward for that student and help them walk it, and the students need to know that. Create a culture of reaching out and de-escalating social-emotional conflicts and the impact on the attitude of your student population will be tremendous.

Supporting Evidence

 A multitude of studies have been conducted over the last 30 years to find what has the greatest impact on student outcomes and the perceptions of school staff and administration. Three themes were found to be reoccurring in a majority of the studies:

  • Build an open dialog and robust support network.
  • Have behavioral teams or threat assessment teams aligned with MTSS/PBIS/RTI: improving counselor workloads.
  • SEL support and maintenance improves student outcomes and behaviors.

In this white paper we will explore the evidence supporting these ideas, and how to implement them effectively in your school.

The Need for a Robust Support Network

School Violence is not a new phenomenon, the earliest case noted in research occurred in 1974 (Vossekuil et al., 2002). Worst case scenario is a direct attack on the school, bombing or shooting, but what if we reach troubled students before they start planning an attack? Since there is ‘no accurate or useful ‘profile’ for a student who will engage in targeted school violence’ (Vossekuil et al., 2002) we must rely on building individual relationships between students and trusted adults, and employ robust support systems with multiple avenues for students to report a variety of incident types.

In a recent survey conducted by Active Minds (2020), 55% of students do not know where or when to reach out about mental health. Also, a majority of students minimize concerning behavior they observe in their friends or themselves. The goal of having several reporting systems is to make sure that any distress a student is feeling can be addressed no matter how unimportant they may feel the concern is. When there are alternate reporting systems for Social-Emotional Support available to students, they are more likely to report concerning behavior or ‘red flags’.  According to Homeland Securities K-12 School Security: A Guide for Preventing and Protecting Against Gun Violence (2018), “The importance of detecting and addressing concerning behavior, thoughts, or statements cannot be overstated. In fact, preventing violence by detecting and addressing these red flags is more effective than any physical security measure.”

From the data collected students and teachers felt a difference when their school counselors and psychologists were available for student concerns, such as social-emotional support. Sadly, school boards and administrations looking for a quick fix rely heavily on policing the student population instead. Physical protection is important, but it needs to be balances with the behavioral support services available to students in school.

Multiple types of incident reporting systems, Emergency Response to Anonymous Tips, but these systems only acknowledge a problem after the incident occurs. Although with State-Sponsored Anonymous Tip lines students can reach out for support for safety concerns, there is still a problem with how the students perceive these systems. None of the “Staff” are in their school, and with the reports being anonymous there is no chance to build relationships between students and administration or receive a full picture of the issue. FightSong! is filling the gap between all these services. Social-Emotional Support works best when the students know the person they are speaking with, developing important skills for problem solving and interpersonal relationships.

Multi-Tiered Support Systems (MTSS) & Positive Behavioral Intervention Support (PBIS)

“A Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) is a data-driven, problem-solving framework to improve outcomes for all students. MTSS relies on a continuum of evidence-based practices matched to student needs. PBIS is an example of MTSS centered on social behavior.” (PBIS, 2021).

When applying MTSS to mental health the tiers are the curriculums and interventions that are provided to students who need support. With SEL, the curriculum stops around 5th-8th grade, but that does not mean we should stop providing support and maintenance for social emotional competency. If a student is struggling to socially connect, or has toxic friends, they need further support and guidance to build the social emotional skills. 

FightSong! is Designed to Work with Systems Already in Place

An important part of the students’ perception of support provided by administration is the transparency of the support systems available to them. To the right is an example of how FightSong! aligns with MTSS, tier 3 is where the majority of students fall. Currently there are limited resources for tier 3 for 6-12th grade, with counselor, student ratios greater than 250:1. A behavior assessment team can help alleviate some of this strain by separating academic counseling and behavioral/social-emotional counseling.

On the left, the flow of information between students and administration. With the ability to escalate reports or conversation up through the tiers of support, only relevant staff can access the information in reports, protecting the student’s privacy. Transparency of this process is key in building trust with the student body. FightSong! tracks the progress of a report, along with what staff member is handling it. This gives the student assurance that someone is addressing their concern.

Also demonstrated in these graphics is how FightSong! improves transparent process that streamline counselor workflow and collaboration with administration. The student report is not being passed along to police or any third party agency which helps build trust with students who report.

Social Emotional Learning and Maintenance Improves Student Outcomes

A meta-analysis of 213 schools and +270,000 students, by Durlak (et al. 2011) found that: SEL interventions that address CASEL’s five core competencies increased students’ academic performance by 11 percentile points, compared to students who did not participate in such SEL programs. Students participating in SEL programs also showed improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and school. (CASEL, 2021)

Social emotional competency not only improve academics it also builds emotional resilience for the future. Students lacking in school support for SEL tend to be involved in more instances of physical altercations. This is due to lacking emotional regulation. Teaching students to regulate their emotions and deescalate conflicts will improve overall school climate and safety.

FightSong! gives students a proactive way to voice their concerns with confidence. Bullying is a natural part of social interaction, students needs to learn how to handle it themselves with support. Administration should not be expected to ‘fix’ every social dispute, although they can help the student navigate complex social situations. If student A offends student B, then student B could reach out to their counselors for advice on how to deescalate the situation, and overcome it themselves. Social issues between students and their peers will get brought to light before anyone becomes overwhelmed and lashes out.

According to PBIS model on the right, there are 3 key pieces to improving outcomes; Systems, data, and practices. FightSong! collects data regarding your current systems and practices. Data is a major component to the CASEL and PBIS models. In order to make data informed or data driven decisions clear, concise, and organized data is needed. Collecting information on the social emotional balance of your student body is important, but being able to view the effects of policy, practice, or system changes implemented is invaluable.

Increasing student engagement with school counselors or psychologists is proven to improve student outcomes. By providing multiple avenues for contacting trusted adults within the school community, students will have more opportunities to speak up about anything that concerns them. FightSong! specifically uses student directed language instead of law enforcement language, for example; we do not use perpetrator or victim, only the question “what happened?”. Students are more likely to report how something ‘made them feel’ compared to snitching on a friend. 

Overall, it is imperative that schools increase social emotional learning and maintenance programs. Student outcomes improve and there is a positive return on the investment, every reason to implement a MTSS/PBIS support system. Gather important data to make informed decisions on improving student outcomes.

Case Studies

Test SchoolSummary of usageCollected Data
Augusta Public Schools USD 402  
2345 Greyhound DriveActive Users142
Augusta, Kansas 67010Buildings6
316-775-5484Support Staff Accessing the FightSong! Portal14
www.usd402.comSubscription Date11/18 – 11/21
 Total Enrollment Grads 9-12600
 Usage Rate23%
Woodward Public Schools  
1023 10TH STActive Users228
Woodward, OK 73801Buildings2
(580) 256-6063Support Staff Accessing the FightSong! Portal13
www.woodwardps.netSubscription Date8/18 – 8/21
 Total Enrollment Grades 9-12760
 Usage Rate30%
Trinity Christian Academy  
800 Hammond BoulevardActive Users146
Jacksonville, FL 32221Buildings1
904-596-2477Support Staff Accessing the FightSong! Portal2 Date8/18 – 8/21
 Total Enrollment Grades 9-12428
 Usage Rate34%
Centre Public Schools USD 397  
Centre USD 397Active Users36
2382 310th StreetBuildings2
Lost Springs, KSSupport Staff Accessing the FightSong! Portal3
www.usd397.comSubscription Date8/19 – 8/21
 Total Enrollment Grades 9-12246
 Usage Rate14%

Four schools participated in an early beta test and are still currently using FightSong. There is a drastic difference in usage statistics between schools that rolled out the product through the IT departments and ones that did their own onboarding.

Test School Testimonials

Augusta Public Schools USD 402- “We encourage kids to report that’s the biggest thing. We have a variety of ways to report— to police, Crime Stoppers, and we have an app called FightSong!”

Augusta Public Schools USD 402

“It really helped with gossip and the issues it caused”

Trinity Christian Academy

“FightSong! has helped reach some kids who struggled quietly”

Centre Public Schools USD 397


CASEL, (2021). Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning [Website],

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D. & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1): 405–432.

K-12 School Security. (2018). A Guide For Preventing And Protecting Against Gun Violence. 2nd Edition. Department of Homeland Security

National Threat Assessment Center. (2018). Enhancing school safety using a threat assessment model: An operational guide for preventing targeted school violence. U.S. Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security.

National Threat Assessment Center. (2021). Averting Targeted School Violence: A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Plots Against Schools. U.S Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security.

Center on PBIS (2021). Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports [Website].

Petrosino, A., Guckenburg, S., DeVoe, J., and Hanson, T. (2010). What characteristics of bullying, bullying victims, and schools are associated with increased reporting of bullying to school officials? (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2010–No. 092). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands. Retrieved from edlabs.

Pringle, J., Whitehead, R., Milne, D., Scott, E., & McAteer, J. (2018, November 24). The relationship between a trusted adult and adolescent outcomes: a protocol of a scoping review. Systematic Reviews.

Protheroe, N. (2006b, November 30). ERIC – EJ758331 – Emotional Support and Student Learning, Principal, 2007. Emotional Support and Student Learning.

Vossekuil, B., Fein, R., Reddy, M., Borum, R., & Modzeleski, W. (2002) The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program and U.S. Secret Service, National Threat Assessment Center, Washington, D.C.

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I am the co-creator of FightSong!. Currently I live in Las Vegas, although I'm always traveling to spread to message of FightSong! Mental Health Advocacy and supporting students and counselors is really important to me. After highschool and college I was diagnosed with a mental health disorder I had been struggling with my whole life. Through counseling and support from my family I am able to be the rockstar I am today.

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