DASH Partner Update – September 2021

Division of Adolescent and School Health: Healthy Youth. Successful Futures.

Dear Partners,

Every year, around this time, DASH commemorates students going back to school. This year, students are coming back to class after experiencing prolonged school closures, and we’ve seen the negative impacts that these closures have had on our nation’s youth. However, we’ve also seen the exceptional resilience of students, families, and school staff during the past year and a half. We’ve seen the creativity and innovation of school districts as they work to keep students safe and connected during frequent change and uncertainty.

Today’s youth are living through extraordinary times while readjusting to their routines and their interactions with peers and teachers. Although these times often bring anxiety for students, families, and staff, schools provide a great opportunity to buffer the negative impacts of the pandemic and provide safe and supportive spaces where students can thrive.

A recent CDC study in the Journal of Adolescent Health provides findings that are especially relevant as students return to school. CDC’s What Works in Schools approach to primary prevention supports school districts in implementing three core strategies in middle schools and high schools — providing quality health education, connecting students to health services, and establishing safe and supportive school environments. These analyses found that students whose schools put the three strategies in place were less likely to report that they had ever had sex, had four or more sexual partners, were currently sexually active, missed school because of feeling unsafe, had been forced to have sex, and had ever or were currently using marijuana. This new study shows that when schools do what we know works, we can prevent some of the most significant threats to health and well-being among youth.

This year, schools face challenges with how to safely provide in-person learning and to address students’ well-being. But the back-to-school season can also bring a sense of hope for the future and what is to come, and I know that you join us in striving to support students emotionally, socially, and academically. Thank you for your continued work on behalf of our nation’s students; I am honored to call you partners in this extremely important charge.


Kathleen A. Ethier, Ph.D.
Director, Division of Adolescent and School Health
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What's New at CDC?
Updates and Resources
  • Back-to-School Toolkit
    To support partners and school staff in their Back-to-School efforts, DASH produced a toolkit with graphics, social media posts, tools, and resources to help students thrive as they head back into classrooms.
  • Five Things Schools Can Do Now to Support Students as they Return to School
    This feature highlights steps that schools and school districts can use as students return to school, and all year long, to support and promote mental health and well-being of students and staff.
  • Classroom Management Strategies to Increase Connectedness
    These new webpages highlight example strategies, tools, and templates that school staff can use to apply classroom management approaches (e.g., teacher caring and support,, peer connection and support, student autonomy and empowerment) in their face-to-face, virtual, or blended learning modes.
  • Updated Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT)
    HECAT is an assessment tool developed by the CDC in partnership with heath education experts which provides structured and systematic process to improve curriculum selection and development. The release of the 2021 HECAT includes new and revised knowledge and skill expectations across all 9 health topic modules covering PreK-12th grade. It also includes a free, interactive online option to improve usability and accessibility by the field.
  • Success Stories of Local Education Agencies Supporting Mental Health
    DASH’s success story page highlights new stories on local education agencies supporting and promoting students’ mental health.
  • K-12 Toolkit for Responding to a COVID-19 Case in School
    CDC released a set of materials schools can use to help navigate the process of what to do when someone has had COVID-19 in their school or at a school event. It includes an overview of the steps to take once the school knows about a case, a decision tree to help figure out who is and isn’t a close contact, letter templates, and overviews of isolation and quarantine that schools can share with students and their caregivers.
  • Local Education Agency Impact on School Environments to Reduce Health Risk Behaviors and Experiences Among High School Students
    These analyses found that students whose schools implemented three core strategies in middle and high schools – providing quality health education, connecting students to health services, and establishing safe and supportive school environments – reported less risky behavior related to sex and substance use and decreases in experiencing violence. Students whose schools implemented CDC’s What Works in Schools program were less likely to report that they had ever had sex, had four or more sexual partners, were currently sexually active, missed school because of feeling unsafe, had been forced to have sex, and had ever or were currently using marijuana.
  • Health Risk Behaviors, Experiences, and Conditions Among Students Attending Private and Public High Schools
    This study used national Youth Risk Behavior Survey data to estimate the prevalence of risk behaviors among public and private high school students. Results show that students in public schools were more likely than students in private schools to report all behaviors related to substance use, mental health and suicide, and most behaviors related to sexual risk and violence victimization. However, students in private schools reported a notable prevalence of certain behaviors, including not using a condom during last sexual intercourse and currently using alcohol.
  • Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Michigan’s School-Wide Sexually Transmitted Disease Screening Program in Detroit
    This study assessed the cost-effectiveness of the Detroit school-wide STD screening program from 2010-2015. Findings show that the program was both cost-effective and reduced the prevalence of STDs in the intervention schools.
  • School-Level Poverty and Rurality Associated with Differences in Sexual Risk Behaviors Among US Public High School Students
    This study used National Youth Risk Behavior Survey data to examine associations between student sexual behaviors and school-level socioeconomic status and metropolitan status. It found that students attending high-poverty schools were more likely to be currently sexually active and have four or more lifetime sexual partners but less likely to have drank alcohol or used drugs before last sexual intercourse. It also found that urban school students were less likely to be currently sexually activity and have four or more lifetime sexual partners.

Updates from Partners

  • The Youth Engaged 4 Change Editorial Board is Recruiting:
    The Youth Engaged 4 Change (YE4C) Editorial Board is a group of young people, ages 16 to 24, who create informative, empowering, authentic, and relatable content for the YE4C website, social media pages, and radio. Applications are due September 19, 2021. Visit the YE4C website to learn more and apply here.
  • NPTA Back-to-School Week
    This week, September 13-17, marks National PTA’s annual Back-to-School Week. The association will share information and resources throughout the week to help PTA leaders, parents and teachers plan their school year, engage their communities, and support students’ success academically, socially, and emotionally. Follow along on social media and at PTA.org/BackToSchool.
    • NPTA hosted a “Back to Class virtual town hall” in partnership with the CDC, moderated by NBC News correspondent Kate Snow and featuring CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona, and experts in family engagement, school partnerships, mental health and social emotional well-being. Watch the recording here.
  • MHA Back to School Toolkit
    Mental Health America’s 2021 Back to School toolkit, “Facing Fears, Supporting Students,” aims to help students, parents, and school personnel recognize how feeling unsafe can impact mental health and school performance, and what can be done to help young people who are struggling with their mental health. Upcoming and past webinars, including one on Building a Trauma-Informed Classroom Community are listed here.
  • GLSEN Back to School
    GLSEN’s Back to School webpage provides guides for students and educators, recorded webinars for educators, students, and parents and caregivers, and several action alerts and research briefs. Check back regularly for additional content that is coming soon.
  • ASCA Back to School Resources
    The American School Counselor Association provides several resources to help counselors support students returning to school. Some examples of the resources include crisis and trauma resources, revised position statements, and resources to support anti-racism efforts all year.
  • Infection Prevention and Control in Schools
    The Infection Prevention and Control in Schools task force developed a series of resources to support schools and school districts with implementing CDC guidance and getting students back to in-person learning.

In the Field

State and local agencies across the U.S. used 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey results to provide key audiences with information on the priority health risk behaviors of students in their jurisdictions and develop data-supported recommendations. Iowa and Florida developed videos to spotlight their 2019 YRBS data and garner support from school districts to participate in YRBS. Chicago Public Schools developed a report that highlighted behaviors such as substance use among LGBTQ+ youth in Chicago. And Boston Public Schools developed a booklet highlighting high school youth risk behaviors including data on emotional and mental health, violence, substance use, and sexual health.


  • September is Sexual Health Month
  • September is Suicide Prevention Month
  • October is Bullying Prevention Month
  • October 5: World Teacher’s Day
  • October 18-22: National Health Education Week