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BY CHELYEN DAVIS
RICHMOND--A bill to train more teachers and students in CPR passed easily out of a House committee Wednesday after an emotional appeal by the mother of a Stafford County student who died when school personnel failed to provide the life-saving aid.
The bill, sponsored by Del. Mark Dudenhefer, R-Stafford, would require high school students to be trained in CPR, and require teachers to undergo the training--but not necessarily gain certification--as part of their regular licensure re-certification.
Dudenhefer has changed the bill somewhat to accommodate concerns. Now, CPR won't be a graduation requirement until the 2015-16 graduating class, and the bill allows, but doesn't require, schools to buy defibrillators.
The idea behind the bill is to increase the number of people in schools who know and can perform CPR when needed.
Dudenhefer's bill--and an identical one from Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford--came about after the death of 13-year-old Gwyneth Griffin. Born with a heart defect, she went into cardiac arrest last spring at A.G. Wright Middle School field day in Stafford. She received no CPR or first aid until rescue crews arrived nearly 10 minutes later.
Her mother, Jennifer Griffin, told the House Education Committee on Wednesday morning that Gywneth's teacher knew CPR. But she "could not bring herself to act" because she was so close to Gwyneth, Griffin said.
Gwyneth died not from the cardiac arrest, her mother said, but from the lack of oxygen to her brain while she waited for help.
Griffin, a private preschool teacher, is trained in CPR, use of a defibrillator, and use of an epi-pen.
Such knowledge, she said, has been overlooked in teacher training requirements until now.
"I don't think it's too much to ask to, in a time of need, have the knowledge necessary to save a life," Griffin said. "You are the adults, and I'm asking you to make a choice that would help ensure the safety and security [of children]."
Some lawmakers questioned the cost of new training requirements in Dudenhefer's bill, particularly a provision encouraging all schools to have a defibrillator on hand.
Del. Steve Landes, R-Augusta, said he had problems with the bill making CPR training a requirement for students' graduation.
"That's a big departure from what we've had in the past," Landes said.