Happy boy in music class
Happy boy in music class

Our mission at Committee for Children is to foster the safety and well-being of children through social-emotional learning and development. One of the ways we do this is by advocating at both the national and state levels for policies and laws that support social-emotional learning in schools and protect children from sexual abuse and bullying. Each year, we host a Congressional Briefing in Washington, DC, and a Lobby Day in the WA State capitol, and we work with legislators across the country to support laws and policies that are in line with our mission.

Our Advocacy Work to Foster the Safety and Well-Being of Children

U.S. Senator Speaks Passionately About SEL During ESEA Debate

During the recent Senate debate about the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) proposed the Jesse Lewis Empowering Educators Act, which would have added language to the ECAA in support of social-emotional learning. In this video, Senator Blumenthal speaks passionately about his amendment—which is named after one of the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy and would allow teachers to use existing funding to integrate social-emotional learning into their professional development and teaching. The ECAA updates the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which was enacted in 2002 and has been due for revisions, and reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

A group of women smiling

Educators Lobby for SEL on Capitol Hill

On May 14, 2015, we were joined in Washington, DC, by SEL advocates from Florida, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, who helped us advocate for the inclusion of social-emotional learning (SEL) in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). read more

We also asked for lawmakers’ support of an amendment Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is planning to offer that would define SEL and allow funding for teacher and principal training to be used for SEL programming. On the heels of the unanimous, bipartisan support for an ESEA reauthorization in the Senate HELP committee, this visit is perfectly timed to support inclusion of social-emotional learning when the full Senate debates the bill in June.

A big thank-you to those educators who joined us in DC:

  • B.J. Bowden, School Counselor, Brownville Elementary and Marion C. Cook School, Brownville, ME
  • Demaris Conner, Education Manager, Mid Florida Community Services Head Start, Brooksville, FL
  • Kim Gulbrandson, Ph.D., Research and Evaluation Coordinator, Wisconsin RtI Center, Milwaukee, WI
  • Kyla Krengel, Director of SEL, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, Nashville, TN
  • Anna Smendziuk, Lead Counselor, Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, Charlotte, NC
  • Julie Young-Burns, Student Support Services, Minneapolis Public Schools, Minneapolis, MN


Lawmakers Liking SEL in WA State

In this session, the WA State Legislature is considering a bill that would begin developing SEL standards for K–12 students across the state. The bill, which has broad bipartisan sponsorship and support, would define evidence-based SEL standards in broad terms and establish a work group to define the benchmarks and competencies K–12 students should achieve across all SEL competencies. In February, Committee for Children lobbyist Melanie Smith testified about the bill before the Senate Early Learning and K–12 Committee, which was covered by TVW’s Capitol Record. The committee chair, Senator Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island), is the bill’s primary sponsor in the Senate.

female student at her desk with books and an apple

Our Stance on Corporal Punishment

There’s a nationwide conversation happening about how we discipline our kids. Recent headlines about the child abuse charges lodged against Minnesota Vikings player Adrian Peterson, for example, have sparked considerable debate about when discipline practices such as corporal punishment cross the line into child abuse and to what extent lawmakers should be able to decide how families discipline their children. read more

We at Committee for Children recognize there are many perspectives on this issue, and we contend that corporal punishment has no place in our schools. We know from the research that when children feel safe and supported, they are ready to learn. This happens in a safe and supportive learning environment, one in which all children feel welcome and respected, engaged and connected, and challenged and valued. This does not and cannot happen in a learning environment in which the threat of physical harm is used to ensure compliance with the rules. So we applaud educators across the country who are using positive, supportive discipline practices such as those outlined in the U.S. Department of Education’s Guiding Principles resource guide, including the recommendation to “[p]romote social and emotional learning to complement academic skills and encourage positive behavior,” (p. 7). Our vision at Committee for Children is “safe children thriving in a peaceful world,” and we believe realizing this vision requires that all children feel safe and supported at school.


CFC and Casel Host Briefing for Congress

Committee for Children and CASEL Host Briefing for Congress

Educators are finding that the best way to impart social-emotional skills to students is by teaching evidence-based programs in school. To that end, nonprofits Committee for Children of Seattle and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) of Chicago hosted a congressional briefing that focused on effective social-emotional learning programs in all stages of the educational system, from preschool through college. read more

The briefing, titled “Social and Emotional Learning: Essential Skills for Success in School and Life,” took place on Capitol Hill today.

In a complex and increasingly challenging world, children need every competitive advantage they can get. In addition to academic skills such as reading and math, students must also develop social and emotional competencies like self-control, problem-solving, and the ability to work cooperatively with others. According to educators and researchers who presented evidence to support these findings in a congressional briefing today, these skills will help students succeed not only in school but in future roles as citizens, employees, managers, parents, volunteers, and entrepreneurs.

The speakers were Joan Cole Duffell, Executive Director of Committee for Children; Maurice Elias, Ph.D., Director of Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; Janice Deguchi, Executive Director of Denise Louie Education Center; and Keeth Matheny, Teacher at Austin High School. Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) gave the opening remarks.

Moderating the briefing was Tim Shriver, Ph.D., Chairman of Special Olympics and Board Chair of CASEL, who said, “I have long believed that social-emotional learning is an essential part of the educational process. Moderating today’s panel was an honor, and our hope is that this effort results in greater support for SEL instruction in schools throughout the U.S.”

Quotes from the briefing have been posted via live Twitter feed at #SELBriefing. And the video can be viewed in its entirety and in clips here.


Susan Davis

Rep. Susan Davis Asks About the Importance of SEL

Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA) asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan about social-emotional learning during a House Education and Workforce Hearing on the 2015 education department budget.  View the video here.

Dr. Debra Boyer

Child Abuse and Trafficking: The Connection

At a recent event at the WA State Governor’s Mansion, Committee for Children and the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center brought together groups and organizations working on the issue of trafficking, particularly as it informs policymakers and elected officials. Cultural anthropologist and Committee for Children co-founder Dr. Debra Boyer made compelling remarks in drawing the critical connect between child sexual assault and trafficking.


Impact of Media and Technology on Youth

Media and technology are changing the world as we know it. Our children are drawn to this new way of communicating, interacting, and learning. The National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation encourages parents to speak with their children openly about media and technology use and set appropriate limits and safeguards.


Impact of Exposure to Sexually Explicit and Exploitive Materials

As electronic information sharing increases, parents must consider that their child may be exposed to sexually explicit and inappropriate content and the impact these materials may have on youth and adolescents. The National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation encourages parents to have an ongoing dialogue with their children about materials they might encounter, explain possible consequences, and consistently monitor their children’s electronic activities.

Our Programs Span the Globe

As a nonprofit, our mission is to foster the social and emotional development, safety, and well-being of children through education and advocacy—and our work extends all over the world. This short video will show you more.

 Senator Kohl-Welles

Senator Kohl-Welles Honored with Visionary Leadership Award

On October 30, 2013, Committee for Children hosted local elected officials, community activists, and other guests in a celebratory reception honoring Washington State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles for her long-standing dedication to protecting Washington’s children by working to prevent human trafficking and child sexual abuse. read more

Committee for Children board member emeritus and founder of Committee for Children, Debra Boyer, introduced the Senator and presented the Visionary Leadership Award to her. Since sitting on Committee for Children’s board of directors herself in the late 1980s, Senator Kohl-Welles has passed over a dozen laws in WA state aimed at protecting children from commercial exploitation and child sexual abuse. She also has passed legislation strengthening the training teachers receive around recognizing and reporting child sexual abuse. Learn more about Senator Kohl-Welles.


Dr. Debra Boyer

Harkin’s Pitch for ESEA Reauthorization

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Pensions, and Labor Committee, recently made a strong pitch for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Read his article on why we must move forward with the ESEA.


Student Non-Discrimination Act

This week Committee for Children joined the National Safe Schools Partnership in a letter to Senator Tom Harkin, thanking him for making the Student Non-Discrimination Act part of his ESEA reauthorization bill (Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013). The Student Non-Discrimination Act will address discrimination against LGBT students, giving them full recourse when schools fail to protect them from discrimination.


Massachusetts Safe and Supportive Schools Act

On May 30, 2013, Committee for Children submitted testimony encouraging the MA Legislature to support S210/h420, An Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools. The bill: read more

  • Requires all schools, by 2016, to develop action plans for creating safe and supportive environments using the Safe and Supportive Schools Framework and Self-Assessment Tool
  • Establishes a commission to assist statewide implementation of the Framework in schools and make ongoing recommendations
  • Establishes a Safe and Supportive Schools grant program to fund exemplar schools who wish to serve as models in creating safe and supportive schools (subject to appropriation)
  • Provides technical assistance to schools and districts

Research shows that safe and supportive whole-school environments are a necessary foundation for improving education outcomes for all students. Educators want a way to align initiatives that make schools safe and supportive: bullying prevention, dropout prevention, truancy reduction, trauma sensitivity, and social-emotional learning.

Committee for Children supports the MA Safe and Supportive Schools Act.


casel logo

Academic, Social and Emotional Learning Act of 2013

Working with CASEL, Committee for Children will be supporting the Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act of 2013 Sponsored by Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH). This bill will expand the availability of evidence-based programs that teach students social and emotional skills, such as self-control, goal-setting, collaboration, conflict resolution, and problem-solving. The bill will be introduced in Congress the week of May 5.


A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools

Recently Committee for Children joined the National Association of School Psychologists and hundreds of other organizations in supporting their Framework for Safe and Successful Schools. This Framework will be used to call on Congress and President Obama to enact school safety policies that will genuinely support the well-being and learning of students over the long term rather than reactive strategies that may cause more harm than good. read more

The Framework emphasizes the importance of establishing policies and practices:

  • That are comprehensive, integrated, and multitiered
  • Facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration across school teams and among school and community providers
  • Make the most effective use of school personnel
  • Are sustainable

More than 100 education and children’s mental health groups and experts have endorsed the recommendations. Other recommendations include:

  • Allowing for blended, flexible use of funding streams to address school climate, safety, crisis response, and mental health needs more cohesively and effectively
  • Improving staffing ratios of school-employed mental health professionals to allow for the delivery of a full range of services and the support of effective school–community partnerships
  • Employing effective school discipline that promotes positive behavior
  • Integrating ongoing school safety and crisis and emergency preparedness and response teams, training, and planning



Safe Schools Improvement Act

Committee for Children, along with dozens of other organizations that are members of the National Safe Schools Partnership, is enthusiastically supporting the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) as it makes its way through Congress (HR1199 in the House of Representatives and S403 in the US Senate). The SSIA will help educators effectively address the bullying and harassment that creates significant adverse consequences for students. The act will ensure that schools and districts develop policies against bullying and harassment and focus on prevention strategies. read more

The National Safe Schools Partnership is an informal coalition of over 100 organizations consisting of leading national education, health, civil rights, youth development, and other groups committed to ensure that America’s schools are safe for children.


Joan Duffell Testifies

Seattle FOX News affiliate Q13 Interviews Committee for Children Director

Seattle FOX News affiliate Q13 interviewed our executive director, Joan Cole Duffell, on March 14. The interview centered on Washington State Senate Bill 5563, which would require training for school staff in preventing child sexual abuse.

Committee for Children and the Conditions for Learning Coalition Host Congressional Briefing

In February, Committee for Children and the Conditions for Learning Coalition hosted a Congressional briefing entitled Social and Emotional Learning: Essential Skills for School Safety, Positive Behavior, and Higher Student Achievement. Speaking at the briefing were Committee for Children’s Executive Director Joan Duffell; Dorothy Espelage, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois and noted researcher on bullying in schools; read more

Lori Vollandt from the Los Angeles Unified School District; Steve Zimmer, a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s school board; and Michael Searcy of the Detroit Public Schools. The speakers urged members of Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and include funding for social-emotional learning in the bill. Coming on the heels of the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, the briefing focused on ways to help kids stay safe in school by teaching social-emotional learning. Over 75 Congressional staffers were in attendance.



Senator Tom Harkin Introduces Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students Program

In 2011, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students program as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Very similar to the Safe and Drug Free Schools funding provided for in No Child Left Behind, this bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions with bipartisan support. Committee for Children supports the inclusion of this act in future reauthorization of the ESEA or as stand-alone legislation.

Executive Director Joan Duffell testifies at a recent Congressional briefing

Committee for Children Executive Director Joan Duffell Testifies on SEL Bill

On Monday, February 18, Committee for Children Executive Director Joan Duffell (and other supporters) testified on behalf of SB 5563 in the Washington State Senate during a recent Congressional briefing titled "Social and Emotional Learning: Essential Skills for School Safety, Positive Behavior, and Higher Student Achievement." The bill would require the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop and implement a training program for all school employees regarding prevention of sexual abuse; commercial sexual abuse of a minor; and sexual exploitation of a minor. read more

In the bill, Committee for Children is invited to join the coalition of organizations to update existing materials regarding the laws related to sex offenses; how to recognize the behaviors of sex offenders; how to prevent victimization and take advantage of community resources; and how to prevent children from being recruited into sex trafficking. See full video.

Next week, Committee for Children Executive Director Joan Cole Duffell and others will be testifying in Washington’s state capitol, Olympia, in support of legislation that would provide teachers training to identify and prevent child sexual abuse and child trafficking. On Monday, February 18, in the state Senate and Wednesday, February 20, in the state House, supporters of SB 5563 will share research and real-world stories about the importance of implementing a training program for school employees regarding the prevention of sexual abuse, commercial sexual abuse of a minor, and sexual exploitation of a minor. If the bill passes, Committee for Children will be invited to work with a broad coalition to update existing educational materials about the prevention of child sexual abuse.

Sponsored by Seattle Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, SB 5563 has bipartisan support and has been endorsed by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and the Archdiocese of Seattle.


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