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DC AAP Advocacy Chair Testifies at Hearing on School Attendance Policy

Absenteeism is a growing issue for children in the District of Columbia, with nearly half of the city’s high school students considered chronically truant. However, a student is considered absent if they are tardy for 20% of the school day which contributes to the high number. Social services and truancy court are involved after 10-15 unexcused absences. However, city agencies are unable to meet that demand and there is concern whether children who are tardy need this level of intervention.

To address these issues, the Council of the District of Columbia recently introduced the School Attendance Clarification Amendment Act of 2015. Dr. Ankoor Shah, Advocacy Chairperson for the DC AAP, testified on behalf of the chapter at a recent hearing on the bill.  DC AAP supports multiple provisions in this bill, such as prohibiting suspension or expulsion based solely on absences.  This is in keeping with the national AAP Policy Statement: Out-of-School Suspension and Expulsion.  The DC Chapter also agrees that children suspected of truancy should be returned to school rather than to truancy centers; thereby removing a criminal justice mentality from school and education.

However, the Chapter is concerned that merely changing the definition of an absence from 20% of the day to a full day might make the District’s absentee metrics appear better without addressing any of the underlying causes of truancy. Instead, DC AAP believes the District should take a more comprehensive, inter-agency approach to tackle the upstream causes of absenteeism including health, community safety, housing and transportation, to name a few.

DC AAP Recommends Expanded Scope for the Council’s Safe Sleep for Infants Act of 2015


The D.C. Council has introduced the Safe Sleep for Infants Act of 2015. This bill would require all birthing centers and mid-wives to review safe sleep practices with new parents as well as have the parents sign a ‘commitment letter’. DC AAP Advocacy Chair, Dr. Ankoor Shah, testified on behalf of the DC AAP regarding this bill. Infant mortality rates in wards 5, 7, and 8 are among the highest in the nation and nearly ten times higher than in Ward 3. Risk factors for sudden unexpected infant death are co-sleeping, infant’s sleeping on their stomach, prematurity, head covering and bedding, and smoking exposure.

So we are excited that the Council is starting to think and talk about this very vital issue. Evidence shows that education by a healthcare provider can improve safe sleep practices. But we are unsure about the “commitment letters”, since there currently is no evidence that it works. More so, the DC AAP takes a broader view about this issue. Specifically the Council needs to take serious steps to address children and families in poverty as well as the high rates of smoking & nicotine addiction among the poor.

DC AAP Supports Universal Paid Family Leave Act of 2015 at Council Hearing


On behalf of DC AAP, Dr. Jennifer Tender (a Board Member and Breastfeeding Committee Co-Chair), wrote testimony in support of the Universal Paid Family Leave Act of 2015, which was discussed during a public hearing on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015.  The Bill, (#21-415) proposes 16 weeks of universal paid leave providing 100% of wages up to a maximum of $3000/week for all DC residents.

The bill proposes funding this paid leave through a 1% tax shared across the district. Many organizations and individuals testified — both supporting the legislation and opposing it as written, due to questions about its structure, funding plan and consideration of existing leave policies and practices at some institutions and businesses. It was a lively debate, in which DC AAP testified with a panel of three other supporters of the legislation, Kathy Logan of the DC Breastfeeding Coalition, Marcia Finn, Managing Director of Brightstart Childcare & Preschool, and Sally White, Executive Director of IONA Senior Services.

Due to the length of the hearing, Dr. Tender was unable able to stay to present her testimony; however, Dr. Helene Felman (DC AAP Chapter Treasurer) read Dr. Tender’s testimony on her behalf and answered questions from the council members.

Watch video!

If you are interested in testifying at future hearings on this bill or on other DC legislation impacting children, please contact Nancy Schoenfeld at or DC AAP’s Advocacy Committee Chair, Dr. Ankoor Shah, at

Chapter Members Take to Capitol Hill to Tell Congress “What Every Child Needs”


To cap off this year’s AAP National Conference & Exhibition, DC Chapter members, along with over 200 fellow pediatricians from around the country, gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol to rally for children’s health and show their support for strong federal programs and policies that promote what every child needs. Members showed up with signs that showed why they advocate for kids and what they believe every child needs. 12 Senators and Representatives addressed the group on a variety of issues including common sense gun laws, breastfeeding, CHIP, among other child health issues. If you were unable to join us on the hill, there are plenty of ways to still get involved through advocacy.

Tell your federal legislators to put children first

To contact your members of Congress online, please visit and click on “Support Key Policies to Put Children First” in the Advocacy Action Center. There, you will find a template email with key messages as well as talking points to guide your outreach.

Share what #everychildneeds on social media

Follow @AmerAcadPeds on Twitter for live updates. To join the conversation on social media, use #everychildneeds and #AAP15 to share messages on the importance of federal policies and programs that put children first, and your thoughts on what #everychildneeds to thrive.

  • Find your members of Congress on Twitter
  • Share a tweet of your own. Here are a couple of examples to get you started:
    • #Everychildneeds a champion! I’m joining the pediatricians at #AAP15 to speak up for kids!
    • #Everychildneeds a safe environment. Congress, please pass legislation to protect kids from liquid nicotine poisoning #AAP15 


This Week in Washington: Rhyming Recap

(Reprinted from AAP Department of Federal Affairs’ October 30th, 2015 Federal Legislative Update)

Donning white coats and big buttons
Pediatricians took to Capitol Hill
Full of advocacy, speaking up in DC
They inspired political will
Among 13 members of Congress
Who addressed them with fervor and zeal
Taking time out from votes, some in colorful coats
Their commitment to children was real.
The rally just captured the essence
Of why pediatricians do what they do:
Giving children a voice is not even a choice
For all adults were children once, too
So when dismayed by political gridlock,
When daunted by barriers ahead
When you think it can’t get worse, just keep putting children first
And Congress, whether they lean blue or red,
Will take the time to hear your perspective
And even if in that moment they aren’t stirred
Remember this rhyme: advocacy takes time
Keep on speaking up with passion undeterred


DC AAP Advocates for High School Student Training in CPR & AED

The DC AAP combined efforts with the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology to advocate for CPR & AED training in DC schools. Currently the D.C. City Council is considering Bill B21-243: The Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Automated External Defibrillator Requirements Act of 2015. DC AAP’s Advocacy Chair, Ankoor Shah, testified supporting the bill’s efforts to place an AED in every school and having a couple staff members trained in CPR. However, we at the DC AAP along with the AHA and ACC believe that all students should be CPR and AED trained before graduation. This is not a novel idea since 27 states already have this provision. The DC AAP has been interviewed by the AHA and Comcast Newsmakers to speak out about this important measure.

DC AAP Advocacy Chair Testifies on DC AED/CPR Bill

DC AAP Advocacy Chair, Dr. Ankoor Shah, testified on behalf of the DC AAP at a D.C. Council public hearing October 1st in support of the ‘Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Automated External Defibrillator Requirements Act of 2015’. He was joined by other advocates including Dr. Charles Berul from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and Division Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at Children’s National Health System.

This bill would require all schools in Washington, DC to have at least one automated external defibrillator (AED), and require certain school personnel to be trained in AED use and CPR. The DC AAP, along with the ACC and the American Heard Association (AHA), believe that a provision should be included to require all students to be trained in CPR and AED prior to high school graduation. If this provision is added, the District would join 27 other states including Virginia and Maryland that already have it.

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