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Bill on CPR training advances in Senate

BY CHELYEN DAVIS

RICHMOND—Watched by the parents of a Stafford middle-schooler who went into cardiac arrest at school and died last year, a Senate subcommittee on Monday gave preliminary approval to a bill to push teachers and bus drivers to get CPR training.

Sen. Richard Stuart’s bill would allow schools to set policies requiring CPR training for bus drivers and require it for teachers, coaches and others.

 It also requires that schools have defibrillators by the 2014–15 school year, and requires high school students to receive CPR training.

Del. Mark Dudenhefer, R–Stafford, has a similar bill.

“These things could save children’s lives,” Stuart told a Senate Education and Health subcommittee. “With recent events it’s even more important that we have this.  It’s a good thing we can do what would benefit many children.”

The bills were prompted by the death of Gwyneth Griffin last summer. Born with a heart defect, she went into cardiac arrest at school.

 She got no CPR or first aid until rescue crews arrived nearly 10 minutes later.

Her parents, Joel and Jennifer Griffin, attended Monday’s hearing with other supporters. Her father wore a picture of Gwyneth pinned to his suit jacket lapel.

He told the subcommittee that while Gwyneth collapsed from cardiac arrest, she died from a lack of oxygen to her brain.

Quick CPR and a defibrillator might have prevented that, he suggested.

“The need for individuals to be trained goes directly to this point of immediacy,” Griffin said.

Several groups, including the American Heart Association, spoke in favor of the bill.

The Virginia School Board Association said it had technical concerns, and is worried about the possible imposition of mandates upon schools.

Stuart assured the committee those concerns could be worked out as the bill moves forward through the legislative process.

He said he believes schools can get the defibrillators—which can be expensive—“through community participation,” and that CPR training is offered free or cheaply by local rescue squads.

He doesn’t want to burden schools, he said.

“We want to save these children’s lives.”

His bill will now move to the full Senate Education and Health committee.

  Chelyen Davis:  540/368-5028

cdavis@freelancestar.com

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