Hopefully, as I prepare to publish this article, “Sam’s Law”, House Bill 684, was being heard in front of the Senate Education Committee (Tuesday, April 30) and will be placed on the agenda for a vote prior to the ending of the current Texas State Legislature.
The reason this law is of vital importance is that it will require all schools to become epilepsy educated and aware. Epileptic seizures (of all kinds) are often misidentified and epilepsy itself is so misunderstood that many people don’t recognize a seizure when they see one. Some seizures such as absence, simple or complex partial seizures are simply unrecognized.
Even when a seizure is recognized, people often don’t know what to do. This is especially true in our schools. Children and teens with epilepsy can experience a seizure and depending on the type of seizure, teachers, coaches, principals, counselors and even some school nurses are unaware of how to proceed.
This is also true of School police officers and security. In fact certain seizures such as grand mal and petite grand mal seizures are all too often perceived by police and security as simply disobedience and a behavioral or drug related problem sending these epilepsy effected students needlessly and incorrectly to the local jail, juvenile detention facility or a behavioral hospital leading to misdemeanor or even felony charges against a sick person needing immediate medical attention and wasting valuable time.
Please remember, Epilepsy kills.
Sam’s law, (HB 684), introduced by Rep. Travis Clardy, would require that ALL Texas public school personnel — meaning anyone who has contact with a child with epilepsy — will be trained in seizure recognition and seizure first aid. People who interact with children with epilepsy on a daily basis should be trained to care for them if they have a seizure.
Sam’s Law would ensure seizure education and first aid training for employees in Texas public schools who have contact with children. It would require teachers to take an online course effective Dec. 1, 2019. The bill proposes free seizure recognition and seizure response training for teachers and staff at Texas public schools.
The bill is named in honor of Samantha (Sam) Watkins, a Kilgore ISD student who passed away in December 2016 after complications from a seizure just three months after she had been diagnosed with epilepsy.
Again, not to be morbid (but as an epileptic myself) Epilepsy kills and both time and the proper response can be the difference between life and death.
Much of the foot work in getting this bill introduced into the Texas legislature was due to the efforts of former teacher, Shari Dudo who is also an epileptic. After suffering a seizure at the school where she taught, she founded the Purple Warriors of Texas. Samantha (Sam) Watkins’ mother, Barbara Watkins, also a teacher has worked with Shari to get this bill introduced into the Texas State legislature and bring it to its current point in the state senate.
At the same time, there are many others throughout the nation attempting to get similar legislation introduced into their own states.
Still others such as the RGV’s own April Flowers and her daughter Lili are spending time in Washington D.C. meeting with Congressional staff and Senators in an attempt to raise attention to the need for Sam’s law nationwide.
© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD