(Hartford, CT) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Scarlett Lewis today celebrated major social and emotional learning and mental health victories in the Every Child Achieves Act, which passed the Senate this week.
Earlier this year, Blumenthal introduced the Jesse Lewis Empowering Educators Act to provide powerful tools and training to support students’ social and emotional learning. The bill, supported by U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-5), was named for Jesse Lewis, who at six years old was tragically killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The bill sought to allow existing professional development funding to be used to train teachers in concepts related to social and emotional learning. A similar measure was incorporated into the Every Child Achieves Act, which was passed by the Senate this week. Specifically, the ECAA would allow those funds to be used to help educators teach students “nonacademic skills”—encompassing social and emotional training to help children learn how to recognize and manage emotions, achieve positive goals, demonstration caring and concern for others, maintain positive relationships, make responsible decisions and handle interpersonal situations effectively.
In addition to the major social and emotional learning victory, Blumenthal successfully co-led a bipartisan amendment to the ECAA to allow federal funds to be used for mental health awareness training—providing training to school personnel to de-escalate crises, and to recognize the early signs and symptoms of mental illness, enabling early intervention and support.
"Jesse Lewis had emotional intelligence way beyond his years—gifts of empathy, caring and hope that can be instilled in children nationwide if educators are given the right tools and training," Blumenthal said. "I thought of Jesse as I cast my vote this week in support of the Every Child Achieves Act, which included vital provisions I had sought to advance social and emotional learning, as well as early mental health intervention.
"For Jesse, and for the 25 other children and talented educators lost at Sandy Hook, we still have a long way to go to ensure that all students have the support and skills they need to grow into strong and healthy members of society, but this vote is an important victory that deserves celebration. I have no doubt that Scarlett Lewis’ impassioned advocacy, and the memory of Jesse’s awe-inspiring courage made all the difference in advancing these important provisions."