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Resuscitating CPR

West Linn resident pushes bill for teachers to be certified in CPR


by: VERN UYETAKE - Dwon Guvenir has spent more than a year fighting to make CPR certification a requirement for teachers. Back in 2011, as his son Ashton entered kindergarten at a West Linn primary school, Dwon Guvenir asked the class’s teacher if she knew CPR.

When she replied “no,” Guvenir — a trained Oregon emegency medical technician (EMT) — asked if he could teach her.

“You’re my son’s teacher,” he said. “I want you to know how to do CPR.”

The answer, again, was “no.” To Guvenir’s shock and dismay, Ashton’s kindergarten teacher was refusing free training that could ultimately save a child’s life — and she wouldn’t even give a reason.

It was a problem Guvenir had run into before — he’d tried and failed to convince Ashton’s preschool teachers to accept training as well — but this time he wasn’t going to drop the matter so easily. He decided to speak directly with West Linn-Wilsonville School District Superintendent Bill Rhoades, and asked if it might be possible to train all teachers in the district during an in-service day.

Rhoades demurred, as Guvenir recalled, and said the district met state minimum requirements for emergency protocol. Each school was outfitted with an automated external defibrillator (AED) as well as a six-person emergency response team. If a child collapsed, teachers were instructed to run and find that team immediately.

That procedure might work, Guvenir thought, if the classrooms were filled with adults. But one of the golden rules he learned as an EMT was to never leave a child to go get help. Where adults can generally be down for about four minutes before brain damage occurs, children have just two minutes — not nearly enough time to leave and find help.

“Children go unconscious usually due to breathing problems,” Guvenir said. “So they’re walking around with a breathing problem, losing oxygen before they go unconscious. By the time they’re unconscious, they only have two minutes before clinical death.”

It didn’t matter, then, that the school district met state minimum requirements; in Guvenir’s eyes, those requirements were misguided.

It was at that moment Guvenir decided to change those requirements — or to try, anyway. He contacted District 37 state Rep. Julie Parrish, and found her to be immediately receptive to the idea of introducing a bill that changed the state law to require CPR training for all teachers.

He wrote the bill himself and exchanged a number of drafts back and forth with a team of lawyers. When the bill was finally submitted, its key text read that to obtain a teacher’s license, one must possess “certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation ... by the American Heart Association, MEDIC First Aid, the American Safety and Health Institute or the American Red Cross.”

House Bill 3135 had its hearing in front of the House Education Committee on April 8. Guvenir testified, but said that the committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Sara Gelser, left the room during his speech. When she returned, she killed the bill before it could go to a vote.

In a Facebook post, Gelser wrote that she left the room to complete her own testimony in support of a bill submitted to the House Health Care Committee. Her reasoning for striking down Guvenir’s bill was that “while having more people trained in CPR at school is a good idea, it is not workable to tie it to a teacher’s license and there was no funding proposed to the bill to offset the cost to teachers of becoming CPR certified.”

Guvenir disputed that notion, saying that the $40 cost every five years for teachers could be offset with donations, and he was also happy to teach CPR for free.

“She’s blaming teachers,” Guvenir said. “I don’t think teachers came to her and said, ‘I don’t want to learn how to save a child, $40 is too much over five years.’ What teacher would say that? I think there was something else that’s influencing her. And she hasn’t come forward to explain what that is.”

Gelser could not be reached for further comment.

After being turned away in the House, Guvenir and Parrish moved on to the Senate. Yet the bill stalled there as well.by: VERN UYETAKE - Guvenir

“We still have until the end of the session to see what we can do to make this happen,” Parrish said. “It’s a no-brainer, and parents should be pretty outraged that their children’s safety is being compromised when they don’t have qualified adults ready to save their children in a health emergency.”

The West Linn-Wilsonville School District, for its part, disputes the notion that children aren’t safe under current law.

“We are very proud of our staff and procedures in this regard,” said District Director of Student Services Jennifer Spencer-Iiams. “Student safety is our top priority, and we have an excellent health services team that provides leadership, training and direct support in medical emergencies. We have excellent outcomes around student health and safety with this model, and our staff do a tremendous job in prioritizing student medical safety in all they do.”

It isn’t enough for Guvenir, though, and he points to Virginia as an example of what must be done in Oregon. A bill referred to as “Gwyneth’s Law” was recently passed in Virginia, and requires both high school students and teachers to be trained — if not necessarily certified — in CPR. The bill is named after a 12-year-old named Gwyneth Griffin, who went into cardiac arrest and died at A.G. Wright Middle School in Stafford, Va., last summer. She was down for 10 minutes before receiving CPR or first aid.

It is cases like that, or the death of 11-year-old Lake Oswego resident Austin Segreev back in 2008, that keep Guvenir fighting for his bill.

“I don’t see how it couldn’t change,” Guvenir said. “If nothing else, I’m teaching people how child CPR works. So at least they know you need to stay and do CPR on a child. But people are starting to realize the system is set up to provide adult CPR to children.

“People don’t think about CPR being a medical procedure. But they’re intentionally performing an adult procedure on a child. And that’s not right.”

To find out more about the bill, visit olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2013R1/Measures/Overview/SB852 or Guvenir’s website: cpr4teachers.com.

Parrish can be reached at rep.julieparrish@state.or.us.

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