It always has been rare to find anything political that everybody should be able to get behind. It might be near impossible these days.

Even decidedly good ideas get complicated when you start talking about making them the law of the land.

That’s not just a result of sharply opposed ideologies or deeply held biases. Frequently, it’s the cost associated with some clearly good ideas, and who would have to cover the cost, that keeps people off the bandwagon.

The fairly recent state law mandating that when Texas public school districts buy new buses, those buses be outfitted with seat belts for student passengers, is a good example. Legislators didn’t provide any new money to assist school districts in complying with the law.

Instead, lawmakers allowed school district administrators to opt out if they couldn’t afford to buy buses with seat belts.

So, the law wasn’t really a law worth supporting. It was an official suggestion at best, and, at worst political theater meant to provide the appearance of having done something worthy without having to invest much in the effort.

It was nothing particularly nefarious, but also nothing to stand up and cheer about.

All of that is what makes House Bill 684, commonly called “Sam’s Bill,” remarkable and worthy of universal support.

The bill is named after Samantha “Sam” Watkins, an 18-year-old Kilgore high school student who, three months after being diagnosed with epilepsy, suffered a massive seizure and died, according to a group lobbying to pass the bill.

In the weeks leading up to her death, Watkins had exhibited symptoms of the disease at school, but educators were not trained to recognize the medical signs or to administer first aid, according to the Longview News Journal.

That lack of training and general understanding about seizures prompted state Rep. Travis Clardy, a Nacogdoches Republican, to draft legislation requiring educators to watch instructional videos supplied by the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas on how to recognize worsening epilepsy and properly react if a student has a seizure, the News Journal reported.

Under the law, the training would be provided free of charge to Texas public schools courtesy of the Epilepsy Foundation.

“Sam’s Law is simple,” the Epilepsy Foundation argues.

“People who deal with children with epilepsy on a daily basis should be trained to care for them if they have seizures.”

A delegation of Galveston County residents, including Trysten Pearson, a Ball High School student who suffers from epilepsy, and other Ball High students and teachers, plan to visit Austin on Monday to lobby for the bill.

The bill apparently already has some support among local lawmakers. State Rep. Mayes Middleton is a sponsor and state Sen. Larry Taylor plans to take a photograph with the local contingent, according to the organizers.

We should all join them in that effort by letting lawmakers know this simple, low-cost idea that might save a child’s life should become a law.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

(6) comments

Carlos Ponce

I had a student once who suffered epileptic seizures. We were told it was not life threatening. Just keep an eye on him and it would be over in a a couple of minutes. He was in the marching band and suffered seizures at football games, usually in the stands but one time in the end zone of Rice Stadium in Houston. In my classroom he was seated at a computer when he had a seizure. The incident unnerved students who were not familiar with his seizures. The keyboard with saliva was removed but some students still refused to use that computer. The young man graduated from high school but later died during a seizure.
As for the seat belts on school buses, try riding one. The most uncomfortable ride on a school bus I've ever taken. Each bench had three sets of seat belts. Clearly designed with small children in mind, not high school students nor adults. I tried riding with a seat belt on and that wasn't working. I then tried riding without one on. With the buckles poking you in the back and behind, that didn't work either. I asked the students what they did. They chose not to wear the belts. Buckles were tucked into the bench where the back and seat meet - not an easy task. I wonder if the lawmakers who passed the bus seat belt rule ever rode a bus so equipped. I doubt it.

Gary Miller

Carlos! A ISD school paid for the seat belts without learning if they would be used. Standard operation for bureaucracies. It was a "do something" even if the wrong thing.

Carlos Ponce

Chances are they had a "grant" for their purchase.

Carlos Ponce

Could be the bus company tossed them in as a purchase incentive. Anyway, it makes some parents "feel better" about shipping their kid to school on a big yellow school bus.

Ma Gill

One more mandate for teacher training. Without any more paid time for teachers to accomplish the training. Every training video takes valuable time teachers need for lesson planning and grading.

But no worries - they'll do the grading and lesson palnning at home on their own (unpaid) time.

Carlos Ponce

Chances are training will be done similar to a Special Ed Staffing ARD since it involves only those who have contact with an identified student.
Sec. 38.032. SEIZURE RECOGNITION AND RELATED FIRST AID
TRAINING.
(a) A school nurse employed by a school district must complete an agency-approved online course of instruction for school nurses regarding managing students with seizures that includes information about seizure recognition and related first aid.
(b) A school district employee, other than a school nurse, whose duties at the school include regular contact with students must complete an agency-approved online course of instruction for school personnel regarding awareness of students with seizures that includes information about seizure recognition and related first aid.
(c) The agency may approve an online course of instruction provided by a nonprofit national foundation that supports the welfare of individuals with epilepsy and seizure disorders to satisfy the training required under Subsection (a) or (b).
(d) The agency shall adopt rules as necessary to administer this section.
https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/billtext/html/HB00684I.htm

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