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Highlights * Few studies utilized culturally responsive social-emotional learning interventions. * Studies rarely addressed the effects of discrimination on socio-emotional development. * Most studies did not include follow-up data, treatment validity, or social validity. * The majority of studies examined internalizing and externalizing behaviors.

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine educators' beliefs, perceptions and use of culturally responsive practices in implementing a social-emotional learning (SEL) intervention. Design/methodology/approach: Focus groups with school personnel in a school with a diverse student population that had sustained success with an SEL intervention were conducted. Grounded theory was used to analyze data. Findings: The analyses produced 11 interrelated themes. Practical implications: School personnel noted that instruction in culturally responsive practices was foundational and should occur before SEL intervention implementation commences to ensure the use of culturally responsive practices as part of SEL implementation. Moreover, they noted the importance of school community buy-in (administrator, faculty, staff, parent and student) in supporting school-based SEL intervention sustainability. Social implications: Within the USA, continued diversification of the student population is predicted, while the teaching force is projected to remain primarily White, middle class and female. Consequently, educators often differ in cultural background from their students, which has implications for SEL instruction. Incorporating the use of culturally responsive pedagogy in teaching SEL skills is one approach to addressing this cultural mismatch. Originality/value: There are currently few studies that explore educator perceptions of SEL and no studies that examine the use of culturally responsive pedagogy in teaching SEL.