School Climate Case Studies

Logan and Tennyson Health Centers (Union City and Hayward, California)

Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center’s school clinics provide positive alternatives for students who, at many other schools, would receive disciplinary action. At Logan and Tennyson high schools, youth have the opportunity to participate in afterschool youth leadership and performance art programs instead of serving detention or suspension, or being expelled. The afterschool programs follow a gender-based curriculum and include a strong case management component. In almost all cases, about 90% of the time, students who attend afterschool programs and demonstrate positive behavior are given a second chance by the schools and school district.

The teachers and administrators at Logan and Tennyson High Schools are very supportive of the afterschool programs as an alternative to discipline. School health center leaders conducted a thorough orientation for school staff to the program, allowing them to explain its goals and approach, walking school staff through a universal referral process and necessary paperwork, and answering questions. Today, teachers and administrators make regular referrals to the school based health centers, both to find alternatives to detentions, suspensions, and expulsions, and to proactively address other behavior problems that impede learning.

Santa Maria High School (Santa Maria, California)

At Santa Maria High School, the school and school health center have developed a true collaborative partnership. Together, they provide a wide range of behavior-related support services. These services include: crisis intervention sessions; a grief group for students dealing with loss; a positive choices program, facilitated by adults and peer leaders; and ongoing opportunities for students to build important personal and social skills, such as the skills to foster strong relationships and maintain a healthy lifestyle. During the upcoming school year, Santa Maria High School will work with an outside partner agency, Fighting Back, to provide focused conflict resolution training to students with high levels of need.

The positive choices program is co-led by a school health center therapist and the school’s crisis intervention consultant. Together, students and staff talk about difficult real-world situations, discussing potential actions and their likely outcomes. Students learn how to communicate their emotions using strategies, like “I statements,” that will help them minimize conflict and engage in positive interpersonal interactions. The positive choices program helps students as they develop into caring, responsible adults. It’s not about never messing up, the staff emphasize, but rather about knowing how to grow when you do.

The positive choices program, like other programs offered at Santa Maria High School, supports students in focusing on learning and achieving great things. One student who has a lot of gang influence in his home has committed to a peaceful lifestyle and on-time high school graduation. While the credit for this decision is his alone, health center staff are there to support him every step of the way. They are available when he needs to talk. They help connect him to other men who have chosen to walk away from gangs and who can therefore provide first hand advice and guidance. And, as he becomes more confident and outgoing, they are hoping to support him in becoming a leader able to motivate his peers.