February 10, 2022

By William Cracraft

Honorable Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, Chief District Judge of the District of Guam, speaking at the opening session of the EQ Summit.
Summit keynote speaker, Dr. Neil Nedley being interviewed by local television station KUAM-TV.
Honorable Arthur R. Barcinas, Superior Court of Guam Judge and Pacific Judicial Council Education Chairman, speaking in the District Court of Guam courtroom that served as the EQ Summit’s broadcast headquarters.
Honorable Cyprian Manmaw, Chief Justice of Yap Island, pictured left, joined the EQ Summit from Yap with other remote summit participants.
EQ Summit speakers and participants in Guam, left to right: Honorable F. Philip Carbullido, Chief Justice of Guam and Leader of Team Guam; speaker Therese Terlaje; Dr. Neil Nedley; Erika Cruz, Acting Superintendent for the Guam Department of Education; Lt. Governor Josh Tenorio; and Honorable Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, Chief District Judge of Guam and Acting President of the Pacific Judicial Council.
EQ Summit speakers and organizers, left to right: Jeanette Hrnyak, Conference and Education Assistant; Carolyn Ramirez, EQ Education Train-the-Trainer Teacher; Elisabeth Vincent, EQ Education Train-the-Trainer Teacher; Russ Mathieson, Education Specialist–Pacific Islands; Honorable Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, Chief Judge of Guam and Acting President of the Pacific Judicial Council; Erica Nedley; and Dr. Neil Nedley, keynote speaker.
A 7th grade class, led by Principal and Teacher Mae Lynn Tiningidow from Dalipebinaw Community School in Yap, immersed in the Domestic Violence EQ curriculum.
Journals produced by students participating in the Domestic Violence EQ curriculum.
Student projects made during the Domestic Violence EQ curriculum lessons.




Chief judges and justices in the Pacific islands are in the midst of a historically ground-breaking pilot program that targets family violence in their region. The Pacific Judicial Council’s Family Violence Emotional Quotient (EQ) Program aims to educate their communities on healthy emotional decisions and behavior. Pacific Judicial Council members from Guam, Saipan, Tinian, Rota, Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Kosrae and Pohnpei have teamed up with executive and legislative branch leaders on their islands to ensure success with this very special pilot program.

The two-pronged pilot involves a curriculum for public schools as well as a community outreach component. Because the Pacific Judicial Council’s ultimate objective with the program is implementation, the partnership with the two other branches of government is critical. 

“While our initial and main goal is to reduce family violence in our region, we clearly see the tremendous, immediate, and residual benefits of taking the Emotional Quotient approach,” said the Honorable Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, PJC president and District Court of Guam chief judge. “We are not simply reacting to the violence. We are already categorized in the ‘reactionary’ aspect of violence because we set legal consequences. In this case, we are working to be proactive. The three branches of government are taking very seriously the real possibility that if we can help our people understand their emotions - most especially our children - then they can learn to effectively manage those emotions. They could really learn to successfully control their feelings, words, and actions as youth and then into adulthood. It’s a process, but we’re willing to commit ourselves to this pilot program because our island communities mean that much to us. Now is the time.”

A Crisis
Judge Tydingco-Gatewood and PJC committee co-chair for the EQ program, the Honorable Cyprian Manmaw, chief justice of Yap Island, recognized that one of the greatest benefits of carrying out the Family Violence EQ program was that it would also address what has been referred to as a crisis and national emergency in America: mental health - especially in youths. Micronesia claims one of the highest rates of suicides per capita in the world.

“Family violence is a topic that is front and center in our mission,” said Judge Tydingco-Gatewood. “Our island children have had a lot of strain placed upon their mental health and emotional well-being, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis times.”

Recent studies affirm the rise in family violence. Current comparative statistics on domestic (family) violence in Micronesia and other island areas are scarce, but global data show an upturn in domestic violence incidents. In their 2021 report, “Domestic Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Review,” Anastasia Kourti and Androniki Stavridou, the primary authors, drew on 32 studies from North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific Area and Africa. The report’s abstract notes, “COVID-19 has caused an increase in domestic violence cases,” and states that domestic violence reporting is very likely compromised in terms of current statistics, noting “In children, however, although the specialists’ estimations suggested an increase in child maltreatment and abuse cases, the rate of police and social services’ reports has declined during the COVID-19 pandemic. School closures that isolated students at home seemed to have contributed to this decrease. Conclusions: Domestic violence has been a considerable issue imposed by the COVID-19 epidemic to a worldwide context. The home confinement led to constant contact between perpetrators and victims, resulting in increased violence and decreased reports. In order to minimize such issues, prevention measures and supporting programs are necessary.”

The report goes on to say, “individual studies reported a decrease in child abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic (Baron et al., 2020; Halford et al., 2020), but Huber (2020) estimated increased child abuse rates. The school was considered to be a protective environment for many children, with educational personnel to be the first ones to complain about abuse (Souza Marques et al., 2020). Thus, those decreased rates may be misleading.” (p. 23) More clearly stated in the Critical Findings section, “The home confinement led to constant contact between perpetrators and victims, resulting in increased violence but also decreased reports. School closures isolated students at home and probably contributed to the decrease of child abuse reports. An increase was observed in helplines calls.”

While the process to prepare an EQ pilot for schools and the community had been underway since early 2020, both Judge Tydingco-Gatewood and Justice Manmaw, after learning of U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s Advisory: Protecting Youth Mental Health, were highly encouraged and further resolved to ensure the success of the program.

Something More Was Needed
As to why the judges would consider taking on such a comprehensive project, Judge Tydingco-Gatewood said, “Many really good organizations and public agencies have contributed substantially to what can only be described as relentless efforts to end family violence in Micronesia. The Pacific Judicial Council wanted to go deeper. The approach with this program is significantly different compared to the more common methods. Justice Manmaw and I knew that we could, of course, continue to promote awareness, emphasize legal, familial and personal consequences, and even push the importance and overall benefits of having a balanced family lifestyle, but clearly something more was needed because the levels of violence continued and still continue to rise in our beautiful islands of Micronesia.”

“We really pondered how we could address the issue and determined that a deeper approach to ending family violence, or violence in general, could be found through a scientifically proven and evidence-based solution referred to as “EQ” (emotional quotient). The prospect of a more peaceful society resulting from our program was too great a chance to pass up, so we presented our proposal to the Executive Board and Education Committee of our Pacific Judicial Council. Justice Manmaw and I were elated that they agreed to approve the funding and launching of the three-phase pilot program. We also consulted closely with U.S. Ninth Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown, chair of the Pacific Islands Committee (of the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit) and our Ninth Circuit education specialist, Russ Mathieson, (of the Office of the Circuit Executive for the U.S. Courts for the Ninth Circuit) for feedback and guidance.”

Ambitious Endeavor
“The Pacific Judicial Council understood from the very beginning that it would be an ambitious endeavor,” Judge Tydingco-Gatewood said. “Members all supported the concept, and our judicial leaders immediately reached out to governors and congressional leaders of their respective islands. As a result, the EQ pilot concept became a program led by all three branches of government from the islands. It is the first time the tri-branches in Micronesia will take on family violence as a team. What is so exciting is that our chief justices from each island are the visionary team leaders in this pioneering venture.”

Three-phase Program
The PJC EQ program has three phases: (1) EQ Informational Conference and Training sessions, which took place on December 2021, (2) EQ Curriculum and Community Outreach Pilot Program, January to April 2022, and (3) the EQ Reporting Conference which will take place July 27-29, 2022.

Phase 1 Conference Details
The first phase, a training conference, took place at the District Court of Guam from Dec. 1-3, 2021. Nearly 300 people representing the different branches of government from participating islands either attended in-person or virtually via video conferencing software. EQ expert, Dr. Neil Nedley, traveled to Guam with three members of his education team to conduct workshops on the different aspects of emotional intelligence as well as answer questions from attendees. His plenary addresses took place in the morning while his team conducted train-the-trainer sessions for teachers and community outreach teams each afternoon.

Day one, December 1, opened with remarks by Judge Tydingco-Gatewood and Guam Chief Justice the Honorable F. Philip Carbullido, followed by Dr. Nedley who spoke on emotional intelligence and brain plasticity – “changing the brain” and how this evidence-based solution will help to reduce family violence on the islands. Train-the-trainer sessions began that afternoon. 

Day two started with Dr. Nedley’s presentation: “The Role of the Family in Developing Emotional Intelligence” and “Boosting Your Emotional Intelligence and Helping Others Do the Same.” In these talks, he addressed issues like the differences between a functional and dysfunctional family; the emotional benefits/risks of functional/dysfunctional families and how families can change from dysfunctional to functional families; and how emotional intelligence can be enhanced. 

Dr. Nedley continued to delve into the issues that lead to dysfunction and what can be done to alleviate those issues, including reducing the use of media and entertainment screen time. Train-the-trainer sessions continued in the afternoon.

On the third and final day of the conference, attendees heard details on the EQ pilot program taking place from January to April and from Dr. Nedley on global issues with mental illness. Day three wrapped up with continuing train-the-trainer sessions.

Judge Tydingco-Gatewood said she and Justice Manmaw “are elated and encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by all the participants in the EQ curriculum virtual training sessions which have been ongoing weekly since the launch of the pilot program. The participants included not only the teachers of the Micronesian islands, but also principals, administrators, education department directors and community outreach organizers. We are presently immersed in Phase 2.” Other conference attendees who were designated to be members of the different island outreach teams attended the community outreach training sessions which followed the curriculum training sessions. They will be promoting EQ’s life-changing advantages at different venues throughout their islands.

Two Major Components
Judge Tydingco-Gatewood summed up the program: “The content presented to students and others is composed of two major components that must be completed within a 3–4-month period,” she said. “The first is a specifically developed, comprehensive EQ curriculum for elementary, middle and high school grade levels where students learn about their brains in a simple, fun and exploratory way. Next, they learn how their emotions are connected to their brains and how to understand their emotions. The sincere and ultimate hope is that if the students can learn how to understand their emotions, they’ll be able to learn how to effectively manage those emotions, and as they continue their EQ courses during the targeted years of schooling, the rationale is that they will continue to develop these skills as they grow into mature adults.”

Lessons Adapted
Both Judge Tydingco-Gatewood and Justice Manmaw praised the lesson plan adaption, in the curriculum text and pictures, which demonstrates Dr. Neil Nedley’s and EQ Program Lead Coordinator Carmen Kasperbauer’s keen awareness and sensitivity of island culture. “Such customization of the lesson plans will enable our island students, teachers and community members to recognize the problems and to search for the solutions that will lead to a healthy management of emotions and behavior when coping with family violence,” said Judge Tydingco-Gatewood.

“Our goal is to bring up the [level of] emotional intelligence of Micronesia and that will help (raise) all of the ships so to speak,” said Dr. Nedley in a recent news article on the conference. “And so, it will help families, it will help our school system, it will help our medical institutions and it’ll help our judicial systems, and it’ll help us make better decisions overall. So, we are hoping that as we enhance the emotional intelligence, we will have better family life.” 

“I think we have this tendency to think that emotional distress and mental health issues are kind of unsolvable or that we can only alter them a little bit and that’s because we’re too focused on traditional approaches,” Dr. Nedley said in another article. “But if we actually are able to get to the root approaches, which this program is attempting to do, we can see great transformations occur in families and individuals that can be nothing short of amazing,” he concluded.

“Our Responsibility as Visionary Leaders”
Judge Tydingco-Gatewood noted, “United States Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona and the United States Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy have expressed their views of the challenges facing our children and emphasized the importance of government officials to step up to the plate and become a ‘visionary leader’ in responding to new and effective ways to combat the mental health challenges affecting our children, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, and have suggested that the ‘schools can be a powerful force in providing the healing our children need.’ They go as far to suggest that ‘it is our responsibility as visionary leaders to equip them to thrive physically, mentally and socially.’ (USA TODAY, Opinion Contributors, Nov. 8, 2021). Our partnership with Dr. Nedley and the Nedley Health Team is the first critical step,” she said.

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., shared the results of the American Rescue Plan with the 90th U.S. Conference of Mayors held Jan. 21, 2022. In his address, he acknowledged the nation’s state of mental health was of critical concern, emphasizing the need to “hire more social workers — folks trained in mental health — so they can partner with trusted community leaders.” Judge Tydingco-Gatewood agreed, noting, “the President’s sentiments are consistent with our EQ pilot program.”   

Initial Response Overwhelming
“The response to the program outline and overall concept content has been overwhelming,” Judge Tydingco-Gatewood said. “Leaders from all the three branches, as well as their co-leaders and staff, all had similar things to say. We continued to hear that they were excited about the program, that they thought it was a long-time coming, that they believed hitting the heart of the problem and starting early (with our young student participants) would really make a huge difference. Interestingly, many attendees were so intrigued and compelled by Dr. Nedley’s presentations, some of them admitting publicly that there was much self-reflection as they listened to how the entire community could be healed by this evidence-based approach to ending violence. I can definitely attest that I experienced a lot of valuable self-reflection, all of which I will carry with me personally and professionally while on the bench.”  

Associate Justice Kerio D. Walliby, of the Chuuk State Supreme Court, said he has been working for about 14 years with the FSM national government as a program manager/administrator for the FSM Behavioral Health and Wellness Program. “I would like to improve the well-being, the skills and knowledge for the people and children. Understanding and solving the problems through education and counseling will reduce domestic violence and improve emotional intelligence.

“During the three-day virtual training, it was great to see many representatives showing their support of the project. Chuuk State has already decided on the three schools to pilot the project, Chuuk High School, Iras Middle School and Mwan Elementary.” Justice Walliby noted there were challenges including commitment to the project, leadership and funding, that had to be met, but that he expects success from the project. “I would like to see this project expanded to other schools to reduce family violence and increase the knowledge and skills of the children in the schools,” he added. Judge Tydingco-Gatewood expressed gratitude for the level of commitment shown by all the government leaders. With regard to TEAM CHUUK specifically, she noted, “their solid attendance, positive attitude and contributions to discussions during the weekly virtual training sessions have demonstrated their dedication to the success of the pilot program.”
Ninth Circuit Pacific Islands Committee Role
The training is provided by Nedley Health Solutions, which has been developing this curriculum due to the decline in mental health of youth and the suicide epidemic, said Russ Mathieson education specialist in the Office of the Circuit Executive for the U.S. Courts for the Ninth Circuit. Mathieson staffs the Pacific Islands Committee of the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit chaired by U.S. Ninth Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown. The committee’s mission is to help improve the administration of justice in the participating entities named above. 

Working almost exclusively with the state-level courts of these jurisdictions, the committee develops and presents a variety of judicial education and court professional training programs through grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior. Live events were the norm prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the committee transitioned quickly to holding online sessions whenever possible. 

Last summer, Nedley Health staff members developed the lesson content for student and teacher manuals. This effort included identification and designation of curriculum resource materials, lesson plan sequencing, teaching strategies, a detailed description of objectives, evaluation assessments, listing associated activities for in-class and home completion and related community-involved projects. Throughout, the team focused on adapting the lessons for the islands. 

Pilot schools will introduce program elements along with regular material rather than have separate classes. “Each team is charged with presenting the EQ program curriculum to one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school class, for a maximum of 100 combined participants due to constraints with the materials printing costs,” said Mathieson. If the pilot program is found to be effective at the July assessment, the plan is to institutionalize the program in the curriculum of the island schools, he added.  

The program is specially designed to educate not just the student learning about emotional intelligence in class, but parents, siblings and others through various elements of the program.

Mathieson noted it is hard to estimate how far reach will go, “but in a small island this will get a lot of press and discussion,” he said. “If one were to consider Kosrae (pop. 7,686) or Yap (pop. 11,241) both of which are heavily invested in this effort, I estimate 20-40% of the population to have knowledge or exposure to the program. I estimate this will be a far greater percentage in Chuuk or Guam,” he said.

Many thanks to those who helped with this article including Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood, Chief Justice Cyprian Manmaw and Carmen Kasperbauer. A special thanks to the Ninth Circuit librarians.