U.S. Rep. John J. "Jimmy" Duncan Jr. introduced legislation in the House Tuesday encouraging every state in the country to require schools to have Automated External Defibrillators on hand to aid students suffering cardiac arrests.
Tennessee and 16 other states already have laws on the books requiring an AED in every school. Duncan’s legislation would encourage other states to pass similar laws.
“Encouraging state legislatures to consider laws requiring the placement of AEDs in schools is very important to ensure all students’ lives are valued,” Duncan said in a statement.
The Knoxville Republican said he has read numerous stories from across the country where a student's life has been placed in danger or lost because of limited awareness of and access to AEDs.
“It will be up to each state’s legislative body to decide if they want to make similar requirements for their schools,” he said. “This bill will bring attention to the tragedies that have occurred and the tragedies that can be prevented when students and even teachers suffer heart problems.”
One such tragedy happened here in East Tennessee, leading the Tennessee Legislature to pass the Tanner Lee Jameson Act in 2010.
Tanner Jameson, 13, was playing basketball at Eagleton Middle School in Maryville in 2009 when he suffered a fatal cardiac arrest.
The school had an AED in the main office at the time. Jameson’s mother, Rhonda Harrill, believes if students and staff would have known where it was, it would have saved his life.
The Tanner Lee Jameson Act requires schools to have an AED in the gym, or if there is no gym, in a readily accessible location.
The Tennessee Legislature passed another bill this year requiring schools to take part in annual AED training.
Duncan cited the recent case of two Holston Middle School teachers using an AED to revive a student who suffered a cardiac arrest during gym class as an example of how those trainings can save lives.
“It is my hope that we can start hearing more stories about lives that are saved by access to AEDs instead of hearing ones about lives lost due to lack of access,” Duncan said.
After the recent incident at Holston Middle School, Harrill told WBIR 10News she is encouraged her fight to increase access to AEDs in schools is making a difference.
“For seven years you fight so hard to say ‘Look this does save lives, my bill saves lives,’” she said.
Duncan compared his legislation encouraging other states to pass laws requiring AEDs in schools to the Aviation Medical Assistance Act he sponsored in 1988. That law requires all passenger airplanes to have defibrillators in their medical kids and requires the flight crew to receive training on using the devices in emergency situations.
“If Congress can agree that travelers in the air should be protected, I hope my colleagues can agree that students at schools in our communities should be as well through access to AEDs,” he said.
(© 2016 WBIR)