CPR awareness now Westfield graduation requirement

WESTFIELD – Westfield Public Schools became the first district in western Mass. to require cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) awareness training for graduation following a vote by the school committee at its July 6 meeting.
Susan Canning of the KEVS Foundation, who has been working with the school district in conjunction with the American Heart Association, said, “I’m so proud of the school department. Right from the get-go it made sense to them.”
Canning contacted Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Scallion in the spring about the training. She also worked with Susan Dargie, curriculum director, for the district. Canning made the presentation to the school committee at its May 4 meeting.
“It’s important to make the distinction that it’s CPR/AED awareness training,” Dargie said. “not a full CPR course.” Dargie said they had recommended that in order to receive a Westfield High School diploma or a Technical Academy diploma, that students take the 30 minute awareness training session to receive the psycho-motor skills to perform hands-only CPR and use an AED.
“We’re happy to be able to ensure that all of our graduates will be able to respond in an emergency. This is something that we’ll all benefit from as a community,” Dargie said.
“This is a must-do for any public building – not only for our students but our staff,” Scallion said.
Scallion called Canning and her work in the KEVS Foundation an inspiration to the district, and said Canning just donated two more AEDs to the schools. Now almost all the schools are equipped with the devices, including several in the high school.
“We’re thankful to be recipients of her commitment and her inspiration,” she said. “This is an easy thing for us to do, and it’s the right thing.”
Teaching students how to use an AED is an important part of the training, Canning said.
“We want students to know what an AED is, to know in an emergency to call 911, and ask for an AED,” she said.
She said that the survival rate is three-fold with the interventions.
The mission of the KEVS Foundation is to educate and help prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in children and young adults. Canning, who founded the organization following the tragic loss of her son Kevin Major at 19 from SCA, said the goal is to get all schools across the commonwealth to enact the CPR/AED requirement.
“Most students are required to take physical education or health as freshmen and sophomores. We try to get it into one of those classes. We like to say it takes less time to teach kids CPR than to watch a TV sitcom,” Canning said about the 30 minute life-saving training,
More than a dozen states have signed laws requiring CPR training in high schools. In October, Massachusetts signed a law requiring all coaches to obtain CPR training, but the state house cannot mandate the same for schools. It must be done school district by school district, according to Canning.
Canning has committed to reaching out to all the school districts in western Mass. To date, she has contacted West Springfield, Southwick, Hampshire Regional, So Hadley, Granby and Chicopee, which she said may be the next district to vote for the requirement.
“It’s a feel good thing,” she said. “These are life skills that students will take with them. It’s an asset for them. It could change somebody’s life.”

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