With ‘Brynleigh’s Act’ Maryland Becomes 15th ‘Seizure Safe’ State

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by Mary Chapman |

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With the signing into law of Brynleigh’s Act by Gov. Larry Hogan, Maryland has become the 15th state to pass legislation that ensures that children and teens who have an epileptic condition such as Dravet syndrome have a safe school environment.

In recent weeks, Utah and Florida enacted similar legislation — part of the Seizure Safe Schools initiative — joining Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. Several more bills have been introduced throughout the U.S. this year, including in Arizona, California, Michigan, Missouri, and South Carolina.

The Maryland legislation — SB 299 — is named for 8-year-old Brynleigh Shillinger, who has epilepsy and tuberous sclerosis complex, a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors to form in different organs.

“Watching Governor Hogan sign SB 299, Brynleigh’s Act, into law was a truly momentous occasion,” said Brynleigh’s parents, Sean and Lauren Shillinger, in an Epilepsy Foundation press release. “Our daughter’s journey inspired this legislation in Maryland, but her story was just one of many that persuaded our legislators to pass this act into law.

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“Our advocacy efforts made history and will leave a lasting legacy that will ensure teachers’ and students’ safety in schools now and for future generations. Our hard work paid off and we are so proud of our community of epilepsy warriors. It was a dream come true for us all!”

Dravet and other conditions cause seizures, which are sudden, uncontrollable electrical brain disturbances that can produce temporary abnormalities in behaviors, sensations, or states of awareness and can be harmful to those experiencing them.

The new law requires every student who is diagnosed with a seizure disorder such as Dravet to have what’s called a seizure action plan on file and available to all school personnel and volunteers responsible for the student’s supervision.

The legislation also ensures that at least two personnel at each school are trained to administer federally approved anti-seizure medications as well as what are called “rescue treatments,” which are administered to stop a seizure. In addition, the personnel must be trained for seizure recognition and first-aid response every two years.

“During the school day, school personnel are oftentimes the first line of care for students with medical conditions,” Ken Kerr, a delegate to Maryland’s General Assembly and one of the bill’s chief sponsors, said. “Under this new law, all school personnel will be trained in seizure first aid and be equipped with the tools they need to support students with epilepsy and seizure disorders.

“Not only will Brynleigh’s Act provide peace of mind to families who send their children off to school not knowing if there will be someone there to assist in the event of a seizure, but it can also help save a life,” Kerr said.

The Shillinger family and others have been pushing for such a law for several years, and since January, grassroots supporters sent nearly 1,300 letters to Maryland state legislators in support of SB 299.

For more than two years, the Epilepsy Foundation, which is based in Maryland, has been championing the effort to make certain that teachers, nurses, volunteers, and other school personnel in all 50 states and Washington D.C. can handle epileptic crises. To that end, the foundation plans to continue to work with grassroots advocates and nearly 40 organizational partners.

To learn more about each state’s legislative efforts, write to [email protected]. Visit this website for information about free first aid seizure training.