The Rhode Island State House is currently considering a bill written by University students that would mandate basic first aid and CPR training for all teachers in the state.
The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare heard the bill and referred it for further study Monday evening.
Alongside Representative Rebecca Kislak ’95 (D-4), students in the Brown Institute for Policy authored the bill, which would require that teachers receive training in hands-only CPR, the Heimlich maneuver and bleeding control — commonly referred to as basic emergency and response skills or BEARS.
If passed, the Rhode Island Department of Education would need to make a plan to implement the BEARS training as a part of current in-service training.
BIP, a non-partisan student think tank, contacted Kislak to work on the legislation, and wrote it over winter break.
Every year between 2020 and 2023, one-third of Rhode Island’s teaching population would need to participate in the training. After the first three-year period, eighty percent of teachers would have to be trained every three years.
“If a student is having a medical emergency in the classroom, the first person they will look to is their teacher,” BIP Advocacy Director Michael LeClerc ’20.5 told the committee.
This is not the first time this idea has been proposed. Representative Blake Filippi (R-36) introduced a bill in February that would require CPR teacher training, and other CPR requirements have previously been presented to legislatures but have never passed.
Both RIDE and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals disagreed with aspects of the bill.
Frank Flynn, RIFTHP president, was concerned because the bill lacks a source of funding.
RIDE’s legislative liaison Andy Andrade said that the department feels that training plans should be tailored to fit the individual needs of districts and schools. Andrade also raised questions about the bill’s funding and costs, while asking which organization would maintain a record of trained teachers. He added that RIDE would be happy to address such concerns to amend the legislation.
When presenting testimony from BIP, Executive Director Rohan Dalvi ’21 said that the most efficient cost model estimated that in the program’s first year it would cost 97 cents to train each teacher. In subsequent years, this cost would decrease to 50 cents per teacher provided equipment is maintained.
“Costs can be reduced in a variety of ways,” Dalvi told The Herald, explaining that most schools could use dummies they already have to train students and that teachers with first-aid certifications could also serve as teacher-trainers.
“I could teach you with a dummy in a minute,” said Project Leader Viknesh Kasthuri ’21, explaining that trainings, which would take a few hours to complete, are extremely effective in preventing death.
In addition to BIP, Catherine Cummings, an emergency care doctor in Rhode Island, spoke in favor of the bill.
“From a personal note, having to tell a parent that their child may have had an anoxic brain injury from choking on a grape, is something I never want to say again,” Cummings said, adding that she felt everyone should undergo BEARS training.
The Committee could vote on the bill within the next few weeks, which will determine whether it makes it to the House Floor.