Utah and Florida Are the Latest To Enact ‘Seizure Safe Schools’ Laws
Utah and Florida are the latest states to enact legislation aimed at ensuring that about 470,000 children and teens in the U.S. who have an epileptic disorder, such as Dravet syndrome, have a safe school environment, bringing to 14 the number of states that now have Seizure Safe Schools.
In addition, more than a dozen similar bills have been introduced across the nation this year, including in Arizona, California, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, and South Carolina.
For more than two years, the Epilepsy Foundation has been leading the effort to ensure that all school personnel — including teachers, nurses, and school volunteers — in all 50 states and Washington D.C. are prepared to manage epileptic emergencies. Conditions such as Dravet syndrome cause seizures — sudden, uncontrollable electrical brain disturbances that can result in temporary abnormalities in sensations, behaviors, or states of awareness and be injurious to those experiencing them.
“As a parent, this gives us the ease of mind knowing that our daughter’s educators have received the training and information necessary to provide assistance to her if she has seizure,” Utah resident Chad Wheeler said in a press release. “The training will assist in their ability to understand what a seizure is and how to keep everyone safe if this happens. Just to have the confidence to know how to handle the situation will benefit everyone involved.”
In Utah, where there are about 5,000 children or teens with an epileptic disorder, House Bill (HB) 241 mandates that school personnel be trained in seizure recognition as well as first-aid response. The legislation builds upon a bill passed in 2016 that permits a student with epilepsy to be administered seizure rescue medication by a trained school employee volunteer.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with the Epilepsy Foundation on this important piece of legislation,” Susan Pulsipher, a Utah state representative and sponsor of HB 241, said. “This training will help teachers respond appropriately in the event that a seizure occurs at school. Thanks for bringing this bill to the state of Utah.”
In Florida, which has 27,000 children or teens with epilepsies, HB 173 ensures that care is provided to any student with epilepsy or a seizure disorder who has an individualized Seizure Action Plan filed with the school. Every school employee who has regular contact with such students will have access to these plans and will be required to complete an online training course in seizure recognition and first aid. The measure also ensures that anti-seizure and rescue medications will be administered.
“As a person living with epilepsy, I know first-hand how scary it may be for some of these students to go to school and not be sure if someone will know how to help them,” said Maggie Fitzsimmons, a University of South Florida, Tampa, medical student. “I wish this would have been available to me as a youth going to school. This legislation will provide hope and help many families across the state and beyond.”
In addition to Utah and Florida, states that now have versions of the Epilepsy Foundation’s model bill include Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.