2013 Advocacy Breakfast: Violence Prevention and Safe Schools

APA's Education Government Relations Office hosts meeting in Honolulu to highlight advocacy efforts
By Alexandra Ginsberg

On Aug. 3, 2013, APA members gathered in Honolulu as part of APA's convention for the Education Government Relations Office's Annual Education Advocacy Breakfast Meeting. Moderated by APA's senior policy advisor, Ellen Garrison, PhD, the meeting focused on preventing violence and promoting safe school environments, and featured a panel of experts who have been tremendous advocates for psychology in their recent efforts to engage and educate policymakers. As Garrison stated in her opening comments, this timely topic presents us with a serious and urgent challenge on behalf of our nation's youth; particularly in the wake of recent tragedies such as the campus suicide at Rutgers University, and mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Dorothy Espelage, PhD — a professor of child development in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — has studied bullying, sexual harassment and dating violence among early adolescents for two decades. At the meeting, she presented recent findings from a CDC-funded randomized clinical trial of a prevention program in 36 middle schools, which sought to reduce bullying and sexual violence. Espelage discussed the importance of disseminating science as a research-psychologist on Capitol Hill, and drew particular emphasis to the success of social and emotional learning programs in schools throughout her research, which she found had led to reductions in violence, increases in school safety and greater achievement scores. ED-GRO continues to advocate for federal legislation that promotes social and emotional learning.

Louise Douce, PhD, a specialist in college student mental health, has been nationally active in the education and training issues for psychologists and other mental health professionals. Douce discussed different forms of violence on college campuses, including sexual assault, bullying and suicide. With regards to reducing the instances of violence on college campuses, she indicated that early detection of problematic behavior and effective intervention strategies were both key to prevention. Douce encouraged attendees to engage in federal advocacy efforts for programs that target and fund evidence-based prevention programs on college campuses, such as the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (GLSMA). ED-GRO has played a lead role in the GLSMA reauthorization efforts in the 113th Congress and continues to be engaged in promoting House and Senate legislation.

Diane Elmore, PhD, director of the Policy Program for the UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, spoke about the specific role of education and advocacy in addressing child trauma. Established by Congress in 2000 and funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) seeks to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for traumatized children, families and communities. Elmore described the tremendous advocacy efforts that have protected and strengthened this essential program for the last thirteen years, including a successful advocacy campaign against a proposed 72 percent cut in the president's FY 2012 budget.

ED-GRO thanks everyone who participated in this year's Education Advocacy Breakfast Meeting, and looks forward to seeing everyone in 2014 at APA's Annual Convention in Washington, D.C.

Alexandra Ginsberg is the legislative assistant in APA's Education Government Relations Office.