Sandy Hook mom, Sen. Blumenthal hail passage of education training bill

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HARTFORD-- A woman whose young son was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting and Sen. Richard Blumenthal are cheering passage in the U.S. Senate of legislation that would boost training of teachers in social and emotional learning.

A bill named for 6-year-old shooting victim Jesse Lewis was introduced earlier this year to dedicate money for special training for teachers.

Blumenthal’s office says a similar measure was included in the Every Child Achieves Act approved by the Senate this week. He says the measure would allow funds to be used to help educators teach “nonacademic skills” and help children learn how to manage emotions, maintain positive relationships and demonstrate caring and concern for others.

"Emotional intelligence can prevent conflict in classrooms, in playgrounds and in life," Blumenthal said.

Proponents of social and emotional learning said studies show that children who are taught social and emotional learning (SEL) are better adjusted, drop out less frequently and get better grades.

"What social and emotional learning does is create  connections across different parts of the brain that don't normally happen. It helps mature and develop the child's brain," said Dr. Chris Kukk, Western Connecticut State University Professor of Political Science, Director of the Compassion, Creativity and Innovation Center.

Jesse Lewis' mother, Scarlett Lewis, was on-hand at the Legislative Office Building Friday along with Blumenthal to applaud passage of the measure.

Following her son's death, Lewis founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation aimed at helping educators identify students who may feel isolated or bullied. On a chalkboard in their home in the days before he was murdered Jesse Lewis had written "nurturing, healing, love."

"We are attempting to teach children how to choose love," said Lewis.

Jesse's mother believes if Adam Lanza was exposed to social and emotional learning, her son, 19 other first graders and six educators might be alive today.

Blumenthal was recently successful at leading a bipartisan amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act approved 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.