New NC law requires basic emergency-response training for graduation
Plan requires that schools teach Red Cross or AHA curriculum for CPR and obstructed airway treatment
By Wes Platt
DURHAM, N.C. — A new law signed Thursday by Gov. Beverly Perdue requires that all North Carolina high school students have basic emergency-response training before they can graduate, starting with the class of 2015.
The bipartisan plan requires that schools teach American Red Cross or American Heart Association curriculum for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and obstructed airway treatment.
"We applaud efforts to give lifesaving skills to all citizens," said Barry Porter, executive director of the Triangle Red Cross chapter. "One never knows when that skill becomes useful."
The new law comes as great news to Tracey Stell, assistant director of education services at Durham Regional Hospital. He teaches life support classes.
"It melds wonderfully into Durham County's strategic plan to increase the rate of bystander CPR and it's really going to help people get more immediate care, which will make a difference in survival," Stell said. "You shouldn't have to wait for an ambulance to arrive for CPR to start. Man, that's a huge win."
Heidi Carter, chair of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education, knows that CPR skills are vital for saving lives, but she is left with questions about the new law.
"I am not sure if our schools are the most appropriate place for the learning to occur," she said. "Maybe. I'd like to have some questions answered before I make a firm judgment."
As examples, she wonders whether the state Board of Education or the N.C. Department of Public Instruction is developing implementation plans and methods for funding the requirement.
"I'd like to know more about their plan, and I hope school systems will receive additional resources to accompany any new requirement," Carter said.
She wants to hear from teachers about the benefits and challenges of implementing the law, she said.
"Additionally, I worry about adding another potential barrier to graduation for some of our students," Carter said. "Basically, this new requirement opens up numerous questions for me."
Stell said it might be too soon to answer all those questions, but he had a few ideas:
"The school system might want to partner with agencies or send some teachers to become instructors. I don't know if they would blend it into a health class, make it an extra class or reach out to other community organizations to help with it."
A high school CPR requirement has been on the books, but unenforced, since 1997.
The new law signed on Thursday joins another aimed at saving lives: a law requiring at least one defibrillator kit in every state building in North Carolina and training for state employees to use them.
North Carolina joins four other states that have signed CPR graduation requirements into law this year: Iowa, Alabama, Tennessee and Minnesota.
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