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Back to School: legislative updates & Resources

For some students and social workers, coming back for a new school year will be exciting, but for others, the legislation that has passed will make the year even more challenging. These include continued attacks on LGBTQIA+ youth along with challenges to SEL. While SSWAA continues to fight for the rights of all students to receive a high-quality education in a safe and supportive environment, we want to share resources to help students, families, communities, and school social workers.

LGBTQ+ Resources from the U.S. Department of Education:

  • Toolkit: Creating Inclusive and Nondiscriminatory School Environments for LGBTQI+ Students. You can also find the toolkit here, on ED’s OCR’s “Resources for LGBTQI+ Students” page.

  • The toolkit includes best practices, info about using federal funds to support LGBTQI+ inclusive practices and programming in schools, a Q&A Resource on Student-Led Groups to Support LGBTQI+ Students and Allies (Genders & Sexuality Alliances, Gay-Straight Alliances, or GSAs), as well as resources from CDC and DOJ on supporting the health and safety of LGBTQI+ youth.

LGBTQ+ Resources from Human Rights Campaign, Project THRIVE:

  • The 2023 National Youth Report was released and is accessible on their website here. The report highlights extensive data on LGBTQ+ youth experiences in five domains: LGBTQ+ youth at home; sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) development and milestones; LGBTQ+ youth at school; mental health and well-being; and hopes, fears, and dreams for the future. Please also note the “Ways to Support LGBTQ+ Youth” section at the end of the Youth Report, which features four downloadable action guides for Parents and Caregivers, Educators and School Administrators, Librarians and Media Specialists, and Mental Health Providers.

  • Further, The Project THRIVE Back-to-School Checklist is now live. The checklist provides a research-based guide for K-12 educators and other youth-serving professionals as they proactively work to ensure safe, welcoming, and inclusive schools and communities for LGBTQ+ youth. It is featured in HRC’s Back-to-School campaign, which is titled In Attendance.

  • Read on for ways to take action, legislative updates from around the country, and news you can use and share with communities.

Action You Can Take from the Committee for Children

  • Back-to-school action alert! Students need a positive school climate, free of the threat of violence, where they can focus on learning and growing. Use your voice to tell your state and federal lawmakers that they need to prioritize access to research-based social-emotional learning (SEL) programs to create a safe school environment for all children.

  • The RISE from Trauma Act would expand the trauma-informed workforce in schools, health care setting services, first responders, and the justice system while increasing resources for communities to address the impact of trauma on children. Tell your members of Congress that they should support the bipartisan RISE from Trauma Act.

  • Young people need support to build essential life skills like problem-solving, empathy, teamwork, and emotion management. Send your state lawmakers a quick note of support to let them know why access to high-quality emotional learning is essential.

News You Can Use from the Committee for Children

Messages from the Leading with SEL Coalition

  • Throughout early September: Use the Ready, Set, SEL social media toolkit to share back-to-school SEL messages with your network! Note: We’ll continue to add graphics and video to the toolkit throughout the week, so keep checking back or reach out with any specific needs. You’ll see links to one-pagers for families and educators in the posts that you can share broadly as well.

  • By September 7: Review the Policy Memo on the Leading with SEL coalition’s support of the RISE from Trauma Act, including how to opt-out if needed. Use this One-Pager to share with any of your stakeholders about the act.

  • In state policy, we are keeping a close eye on Nebraska, where a hearing brought SEL to the forefront of their upcoming education agenda. In all, we saw 32 states introduce parental rights legislation in 2023, more than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills, and more than 30 anti-DEI bills. All explicit anti-SEL bills failed, and we’re simultaneously seeing states address prevention for youth mental health issues and other issues that connect to SEL.

  • In federal policy, we are celebrating the Coalition efforts that contributed to the Senate committee report on the FY24 Labor-HHS-ED bill directing US ED to continue prioritizing and funding SEL within the EIR program. We discussed Coalition actions to support the RISE from Trauma Act (see Memo for more info.)

Join us

Are you interested in being on the front line of SSW advocacy? Consider joining the Advocacy and Legislative Action Committee during our monthly meetings (the fourth Monday of each month at 8:00 PM EST). We welcome your input and involvement in advocating for school social work and the students, families, schools, and communities we serve.


Please reach out to the co-chairs Emilie Souhrada ( and Robert Lucio ( for more information.


Emilie Souhrada, MSW, LISW, is a school social worker for Central Rivers Area Education Agency in Waterloo, Iowa, and serves as the co-chair for the SSWAA Advocacy and Legislative Action Committee.

Dr. Lucio is a licensed clinical social worker, with over 18 years of experience working directly with youth “at-risk” of adverse behavioral, academic, and mental health outcomes. Dr. Lucio has also consulted with local school districts to enhance social workers use of evidence informed interventions and has been actively involved school social work research. He currently serves as a co-chair for the School Social Work Association of America’s Advocacy and Legislative Action Committee.

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