George Laman, whose teenage daughter died six years ago after collapsing during a drill team practice at St. Charles North High School, hopes that a new, potentially lifesaving law she inspired is taken seriously by teachers and students.
“If you have an emergency situation, you don’t have time to think,” the Campton Hills resident said. “If you pay attention, you have a much better chance of being successful.”
Gov. Pat Quinn last month signed the Lauren Laman Bill into law, requiring all students in Illinois high schools to learn how to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED) and to administer CPR.
The law took effect July 1 in time for the upcoming school year, which starts the week of Aug. 18 for districts in the Tri-Cities and Kaneland.
School officials for those districts said staff members would work this summer to ensure their curriculum and policies would be in compliance with the new law.
At least two school districts – Batavia Public School District 101 and Geneva School District 304 – already teach CPR and AED skills to students, officials said.
Lisa Meister, a Geneva High School health teacher and certified instructor with the American Heart Association, said students spend a unit learning CPR, AED and first aid for adults, children and infants, and they become certified in those areas.
“It means something for them to get certified,” she said, noting students have used it on job applications and for baby-sitting jobs. “They have that sense of pride on their face.”
In Batavia, CPR and emergency preparedness is included in health classes at the middle and high school levels, Chief Academic Officer Brad Newkirk said.
Even so, he said, the new law will prompt changes at Batavia. In addition to altering curriculum, he said, the district might need more equipment, and staff members need to figure out the initial logistical problem of providing AED and CPR training to all students – not just the underclassmen enrolled in health classes.
“There’s a little bit of an implementation glitch here,” Newkirk said.
But, he added, District 101 looks forward to complying with the law, as educators there understand and appreciate the situation that arose in St. Charles and the reason for the legislation.
Lauren Laman, 18, went into sudden cardiac arrest during a 2008 drill team practice at St. Charles North. Although an AED was about 40 feet from where she collapsed, it was not used, and paramedics were unable to resuscitate her when they arrived.
In 2009, George Laman filed a lawsuit against St. Charles School District 303, the high school and three coaches for negligence in his daughter’s death. Court records show Judge James Murphy dismissed the case with prejudice in 2012, meaning it can’t be refiled.
When the teen’s family first started efforts for the Lauren Laman Bill, “nobody said we had a chance,” Laman said.
Now that it’s law, he said it doesn’t matter to him how schools incorporate AED and CPR training in their curriculum. He wants commitment from teachers.
“It think it is time for the teachers to get on board,” Laman said. “This is an opportunity for teachers to set an example for their students and have the satisfaction of being able to save lives.”
Meister said she talks with her students about how people might act in an emergency. Some might experience fear, she said, and others might be willing to help if they aren’t in charge of a situation.
“The way we practice all these skills helps them feel more confident, so if they do have to be the person in charge they’re more comfortable with what they’re doing,” Meister said.
“A lot of our two-week unit is filled with a lot of practice.”