Several members attended the first ever WASSW Lobby Day on Friday, January 31st, 2014 in Olympia. At the beginning of January, WASSW members scheduled appointments with various representatives and senators. Members choose who they wanted to meet with. Some members met with legislators from their own district. Other members chose to meet with legislators who have sponsored or co-sponsored bills that were closely related to our profession.
Some examples of bills that are of particular interest to our profession are HB 1336 – Increasing the capacity of school districts to recognize and respond to troubled youth, HB 1424 – Enhancing the statewide K-12 dropout prevention, intervention, and reengagement system, HB 1688 – Establishing a requirement and system for reporting incidents of student restraint and isolation in public schools, SB 5117 – Regarding family involvement coordinators in public schools, SB 5333 – Providing mental health first aid training to teachers and educational staff, SB 5570 – Concerning school funding, and SB 5571 – Increasing public awareness of mental illness and its consequences.
In addition some of the legislators that members met with also serve (or have served) on various committees such as the House Education Committee, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, the Joint Select Committees on Education Accountability and Addressing School Funding, and the K -12 Dropout Prevention Workgroup.
In all, members met with representatives, senators, and staff from seven different offices. Those offices include Senator Rolfe – 23rd Legislative District, Representative Fey – 27th Legislative District, Representative Farrell – 46th Legislative District, Representative Gerry Pollet – 46th Legislative District, Senator Frockt – 46th Legislative District, Representative Mark Hargrove – 47th Legislative District, and Representative Pat Sullivan – 47th Legislative District.
Key talking points were the current state of mental health needs of students in our schools, the necessity for continued identification, prevention, and intervention services for at-risk students, and the role that School Social Workers play in supporting students and families who are faced with these challenges. Members explained the current lack of recognition that School Social Workers have in the Washington Administrative Code. Members also asked for support in developing a bill for the next legislative session that would write School Social Workers into the Washington Administrative Code – similar to what School Counselors were able to accomplish in 2007.
Almost all of the members of the legislature that we met with agreed to schedule follow up meetings to develop a plan of action. The current legislative session is predicted to end in March or April. Next steps include setting up follow up meetings with those that showed interest and developing a detailed plan of how to go about meeting the goal of being written into the Washington Administrative Code.
Our work is far from over and cannot be accomplished without the help of our membership. We highly encourage you to contact one or more of the above legislative offices in addition to your own legislators to express your desire to have this bill developed. The more voices that we have, the better chance we have at reaching our goal.
As School Social Workers we are very good at advocating for our students and families in need. This is the one time that we need to advocate for ourselves. If we do not take the time to advocate for ourselves, no one else will.