Seizure action plans for students proposed

Nebraska schools would create individualized plans to help students with seizure disorders under a bill heard March 1 by the Education Committee.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist49' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Jen Day'>Sen. Jen Day</a>
Sen. Jen Day

Under LB639, introduced by Omaha Sen. Jen Day, a school with an enrolled student who has a seizure disorder and requires medication would have at least one employee at each school building who is trained to recognize and respond to seizures and administer the medications.

Day said that many first-time seizures happen when children are at school, and, without proper training, teachers and other school staff easily can mistake the signs and symptoms of seizures for other behaviors, overlook them or mishandle them.

“With the prevalence of seizures happening inside schools — and with common misconceptions about the signs and symptoms — it’s imperative for us to better equip our school personnel and provide more safety for our students in the classroom,” she said.

Before a school employee could administer seizure medication, a student’s parent or guardian would provide a written authorization, a written statement from the student’s doctor and the medication in its unopened, sealed package with the intact label affixed by the dispensing pharmacy.

A parent or guardian also would have to collaborate with school employees to create a written, individualized health plan to acknowledge and prepare for the health care needs of a student diagnosed with a seizure disorder. Each student’s seizure action plan would be distributed to any school personnel or volunteers responsible for them.

A student would be allowed to possess the supplies, equipment and medication necessary to treat a seizure disorder if specified in the student’s seizure action plan.

LB639 also would require each certificated school employee to participate in at least one hour of self-study review of seizure disorder materials.

Jennifer Cordes of Elkhorn testified in support of the bill. She coordinated with her daughter Ruby’s school to ensure staff are aware of her seizure action plan, but not all parents are as proactive, Cordes said. She said LB639 would ensure that all schools create plans to help students with epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

“Without LB639, our children are not assured a safe learning environment,” Cordes said. “They are at risk for inadequate and delayed medical attention, which may lead to permanent damage and even death.”

Ruby Cordes also testified in support, saying her seizures are unpredictable and do not stop just because she is at school. She said knowing that her teachers are aware of her seizure action plan and trained to respond to both types of seizures that she suffers from gives her a sense of comfort.

“My safety depends on the actions others take,” Cordes said, “and I want and need to feel safe at all times, especially at school.”

Kristi Berst, executive director of Epilepsy Foundation Nebraska, also testified in support of LB639. She said the foundation, in collaboration with the CDC, has designed two seizure first aid and awareness training programs for schools, both available free online.

Berst said many schools, especially those in rural Nebraska, do not have a full-time nurse.

“We want to help the entire school staff by providing the tools to effectively and safely respond [to seizures] even when the nurse is out of the building,” she said, “much like CPR and first aid training.”

Colby Coash testified in opposition to the bill on behalf of the Nebraska Association of School Boards. Although free training is available, he said, schools still would have to pay teachers for the time they spend on it.

Additionally, Coash said, the federal government already requires schools to develop plans to provide special support to children with disabilities.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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