Hundreds of advocates for a bill that would require schools to teach students CPR, along with instruction in the use of an automated external defibrillator, will travel from throughout the state to Albany today to lobby the Legislature.
The American Heart Association has been pushing for similar legislation for about five years, but, unlike the others, the current bill does not call for students to be certified, only to be taught the basic skills necessary to perform CPR and use an AED, said Amit Chitre, regional vice president for communications and marketing at the American Heart Association.
“The pushback has always been that this is an unfunded mandate and schools don’t have time to take on something new like this,” said Chitre, who is heading to Albany with three others from the Rochester area.
Chitre said equipment needed for the training called for in the proposal would cost only about $30, and the instruction would take about 30 minutes.
Schools already are required to have an AED, partly due to the past lobbying of the Heart Association.
On March 12, 2010, coaches used an AED to save Gates-Chili eighth-grader Olivia Fish, who collapsed at track practice.
“Once students are armed with this knowledge they’re ready to respond in any type of emergency,” Chitre said.
The local contingent is expected to include Penfield High School senior Elizabeth Swantz and her father, Bob. Swantz is the first youth member of the Association’s local board.
Most board members are executives and doctors, but a youth was added “to help engage and connect with the younger generation,” Chitre said.
Swantz has a heart condition that occasionally makes her heart race. But she is still able to play on a CYO basketball team and participate with her high school swimming team.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to have that experience. I think it’ll be a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Swantz, 17.
Swantz is a lifeguard and is certified in CPR and the use of an AED.
Currently, CPR and AED instruction can be offered as part of the health curriculum, but it is not required by law.
If a school teaches CPR skills now, it also must provide instruction in AED use. Sponsors of the Senate version of the bill include James Alesi, R-Perinton, and George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Niagara County.