Developing legislation could require Wisconsin teachers to learn CPR

MILWAUKEE —  State law requires students to learn CPR before they graduate from high school, but not their teachers.

Now, one state lawmaker is hoping to change that.

FOX6 Investigators show you how a 9-year-old boy's death could have a lasting impact on school safety.

At Badger Middle School in West Bend,  8th graders are learning how to save a life.

Students practicing CPR during health class at Badger Middle School in West Bend.

"You come up to a victim and the victim is unconscious, the first thing you're going to do is?" asks 8th grade health teacher Tom Hoogester.
"Are you okay?" his students respond, addressing the half torso dummies on the tile floor in front of them.

"And next thing you're going to do is?" Hoogester asks.

"Call 911!!" the students respond in unison.

It's more than just a lesson in health class. It's state law.

Dr. Singh is hopeful schools across the state can prepare for unforeseen incidents.

"It's really a public health goal to have the general population trained in doing that knowing how to respond," said Dr. Anoop Singh, Medical Director of Project Adam.

Schools in Wisconsin are required to train students in CPR at least once between 7th and 12th grades.

But for teachers, that kind of training is  voluntary.

State Rep. Daniel Riemer is working to make CPR training mandatory for educators across the state.

"We don't expect teachers to be fully trained first responders, but they should know a few basics and they should especially know when to call for professional help," State Rep. Daniel Riemer/D-Milwaukee said.

Two things happened that prompted Representative Riemer to start thinking this way.

"Once you have a kid, you really start to see things differently," Rep. Riemer said.

First, the young Milwaukee lawmaker found out he was going to be a father.

Rep. Riemer says Sam's story really hit home now that he, too, is a father.

"We now have a 5 and a half-month-old baby."

Then, he saw our story about 9-year-old Sam Megna.

Sam was attending an MPS Summer School Day Camp when he choked on pancakes, passed out and died.

And while staff members did attempt to save Sam's life, none were certified in CPR or the Heimlich Maneuver.

Sam Megna was 9-years-old when he collapsed after choking on pancakes at lunch in July 2017, while attending summer school.

"This young boy that I represent died because there wasn't a plan," Rep. Riemer said.

Riemer is now working on a bill to better prepare schools for medical emergencies.

"To make sure that staff know how to do basic resuscitation, basic prevention of choking and know, and I think this is particularly important, know when to call for emergency relief," Rep. Riemer said.

Details of the bill are still being hammered out, but Riemer is getting input from the likes of Dr. Anoop Singh, a cardiologist at Children's Hospital and Medical Director of Project Adam, which has pushed to get automated external defibrillators or AED's - in schools across Wisconsin.

Dr. Singh says training teachers is a good idea, but he also wants schools to create comprehensive emergency response plans.

"An AED being around is a fantastic place to start, but having somebody who knows how to use it is very important," Dr. Singh said.

Named for a Whitefish Bay basketball player who died of sudden cardiac arrest in 1999, Project Adam has helped to push for mandatory CPR training for students in at least 37 states, including Wisconsin.

"Changing the culture from one of inaction to one of action," Dr. Singh said.

Now, they're working with the American Heart Association and Rep. Riemer to help schools create a complete emergency response plan.

"Everybody's going to have a different role. Whether it's calling 911, waiting outside the school to direct EMS to the right spot, being the person who starts CPR, being the person who runs and gets an AED, everybody has a role in this process," Dr. Singh said.

"I'm not an expert in what that plan should be, it seems obvious to me and I hope it's obvious to my colleagues and the governor, that we need something stronger in place," State Rep. Riemer said.

The biggest hangup could be funding.

"Does it force something onto schools without a plan to pay for it?" Rep. Riemer said.

He's hoping groups like Project Adam can help.

"We would love for schools to be prepared for these sort of rare situations," Dr. Singh said.

Until they are they'll keep pressing for change.

Representative Riemer has had preliminary discussion with the Milwaukee Teachers Union and says they were "generally receptive."

But he says no  one wants to take a solid position until there's a final bill.  He hopes to have something concrete to introduce in the next couple of months.