Six members attended the second WASSW Lobby Day on Monday, January 19, 2015 in Olympia. To prepare for the day of advocacy, WASSW members scheduled appointments and met with various representatives and senators to discuss the role of social work within our schools. Members chose to meet with both legislators from their own district as well as legislators who have a history of sponsoring or co-sponsoring bills that support educational initiatives.
Because our scheduled Lobby Day was so close to the beginning of the legislative session, the purpose of our advocacy was focused less on specific pieces of legislation and more on boosting the visibility of school social work. Key talking points included the importance of mental health services in K-12 schools, the ever-present need for continued prevention, assessment, and intervention services for at-risk students, and the role of school social workers as individual service providers who understand how to navigate complex systems in order to access resources for students, families, and communities. Members explained the distinction between SSWs and school counselors, advocated for official recognition in the Washington Administrative Code, and encouraged legislators to support upcoming bills that would allocate funds specifically to create positions accessible to school social workers.
At the end of the day, our members had met with representatives, senators, and staff from eleven different offices, including: Representative Gerry Pollet (46th Legislative District), Senator Tim Sheldon (35th Legislative District), Representative Tina Orwall (33rd Legislative District), Representative Steve Bergquist (11th Legislative District), Representative Reuven Carlyle (36th Legislative District), Senator David Frockt (46th Legislative District), Representative Jessyn Farrell (46th Legislative District), Representative Gael Tarleton (36th Legislative District), Representative Tana Senn (41st Legislative District), Representative Eric Pettigrew (37th Legislative District), and Senator Pramila Jayapal (37th Legislative District). Some representatives currently serve on the House Education Committee and the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee.
Reaching out to these legislators is an important first step that has brought us closer to greater visibility for our profession. However, we still have a long way to go. The next step is to schedule follow-up meetings with those who are supportive of our cause in order to get closer to our goal of being officially recognized as vital members of school support systems. We cannot continue to advocate effectively for students and families under current limitations, so we must organize and make our voices heard. Please contact your legislators and keep an eye out for further updates from WASSW regarding upcoming legislation and action!
Lara Evensen, University of Washington
School Social Work Intern at Chief Sealth International High School