Holly Larson

Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Sherryl Houdek


The study’s purpose was to explore social emotional supports in place at the time of this study through North Dakota public elementary school counseling programs, to give attention to the North Dakota Multi-Tiered System of Supports in Social Emotional Learning (NDMTSS-SEL) initiative’s implementation, and to understand perspectives on early social emotional learning needs and interventions. Education in North Dakota is guided by the North Dakota Century Code (NDCC) Title 15.1 statutes. In October of 2019, the North Dakota Legislative Interim Education Committee discussed a need to review and revise these statutes (North Dakota Legislative Branch, 2019). Within the North Dakota Century Code, in Chapter 15.1-06 on schools, Section 19 describes a requirement for counselor positions in prekindergarten through Grade 12 schools, “Beginning with the 2010-11 school year, each school district must have available one full-time equivalent counselor for every three hundred students in grades seven through twelve” (N.D. Cent. Code, n.d., Section 15.1-06-19, para. 1). The researcher conducted a qualitative study to gather perceptions on reviewing, revising and making recommendations for updating this statute. Participants included elementary school principals, counselors, teachers, parents and students. Two major themes that emerged from this research were the necessity of early social emotional learning and the impact of having a school counselor available to all learners. The results of this study provide rationale to expand and revise North Dakota school counselor and counseling program requirements while removing barriers counselors face to efficient service such as inadequate time, role confusion and overwhelming student to counselor ratios. Outcomes of these policy changes would lead to early SEL support, instruction, and intervention for all learners and a mediation of student risk factors and challenges from external inequities. Following a discussion of conclusions, the researcher provides recommendations and implications for state and school-level policy changes that align with the direction of student mental health needs and the NDMTSS-SEL initiative’s implementation. Search Words: Schools, Counseling Programs, Mental Health, Policies