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Rhode Island House Passes Bill Requiring CPR, Defibrillator Training for High School Graduation

The House of Representatives today passed a bill (2013-H5376) that would require high school seniors to be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) in order to graduate.

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Including this training in school graduation requirements, says Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), the bill’s prime sponsor in the House, would quicken response to potentially life-threatening injuries and help students learn how to save lives.

Under current law, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is required to write public guidelines for student training in CPR, and local school districts are required to incorporate this training into existing health education classes. However, under the new bill, such training would need to at least include a hands-on course in CPR and an overview of AED use. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would also be empowered to monitor this training so that all Rhode Island students could be proficient.

“When someone has a heart attack or stops breathing, they’re dealing with a window of minutes, if not seconds, before they suffer irreversible damage or death,” said Representative McNamara. “Making sure our students can perform CPR and use a defibrillator will not only improve first aid response at our schools, but will teach our students potentially life-saving techniques that they can keep with them for their entire lives.”

A study in the journal Critical Care found that students as young as nine years old were successfully able to learn first aid skills such as emergency calling and AED deployment. Of 147 students studied between nine and 18 years old, 86 percent performed CPR successfully. According to the American Safety and Health Institute, 36 states require CPR training for graduation, and should the bill become law, Rhode Island would join their ranks.

“I hope that this bill will empower our students to become better at first aid and saving the lives of others,” said Representative McNamara. “We have to give our students the tools they need to become skilled first responders.”

The bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, is cosponsored in the House by Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Rep. Eileen S. Naughton (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), Rep. Karen L. MacBeth (D-Dist 52, Cumberland) and Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Middletown, Newport).

A companion bill in the Senate (2013-S0308) sponsored by Sen. James E. Doyle II (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) passed the Senate on May 7 and is currently before the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare.



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