High school students in public schools across New Jersey will soon be taught how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use an automated external defibrillator.
Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno signed legislation Wednesday that requires school districts and charter schools to include such instruction in their health and physical education curriculum.
"I have a 14-year-old son who goes to high school next year," Guadagno said at a bill-signing ceremony Wednesday at Burlington Township Middle School. "I sleep better at night knowing that if the worst-case scenario occurs, he has the best chance of surviving because this legislation was signed today."
The American Heart Association says about 424,000 people suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital each year, and early CPR and defibrillation are the only ways to revive victims. Most cardiac arrests result in death.
Cardiac arrest occurs without warning when the heart's electrical system malfunctions, the AHA says.
This year's incoming high school freshmen will be the first class required to receive CPR and defibrillator instruction. The curriculum, which includes hands-on learning, must be modeled after recommendations from the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, or a similar organization. Students are not required to obtain certification.
A spokeswoman for the New Jersey School Boards Association said the group supported the measure "in the interest of the health and safety of students."
Supporters pointed to an episode in June, when a student at Burlington Township Middle School collapsed during physical education class. Staff administered CPR and applied a defibrillator, and emergency responders took the student to the hospital. The student recovered.
"Anybody can learn how to do this," said State Sen Diane Allen (R., Burlington), a bill sponsor.
Guadagno, the lieutenant governor, is acting governor as Gov. Christie campaigns in Kansas and Oklahoma to raise money for gubernatorial incumbents there. He is chairman of the Republican Governors Association.