HILO — Legislation in both the state Senate and House would require Hawaii high school students to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, before they can graduate.
Senate Bill 1388, co-sponsored by Big Island Sens. Lorraine Inouye and Dru Kanuha, among others, would require public, private and charter schools to provide such instruction for all students in ninth- through 12th-grade beginning in the 2020-21 school year.
The instruction is to be included in at least one health education class required for graduation and calls for hands-on practice of CPR and automated external defibrillator use.
“I think as they leave the high school and they travel for higher education, whether in the state or outside, just having (CPR training) would help in any place they travel,” Inouye said.
CPR instruction for students has been discussed for several years during gatherings of the National Conference of State Legislators, she said.
“Knowing what’s happening throughout our country, it’s something Hawaii should not be left behind.”
According to the legislation, 39 states and Washington, D.C., have rules in place making CPR training a high school graduation requirement, and at least 75 percent of public high school students graduating this year will have learned CPR in their schools.
By incorporating the training, which can be done in a single 30-minute session, into health curriculum for high school students, “there is a less likelihood that Hawaii residents will not feel helpless to act during a cardiac arrest emergency, and survival rates for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests will increase,” according to the legislation.
“When I read the bill, I thought it was a great idea to equip our kids with skills necessary to possibly save somebody’s life if they’re in trouble,” Kanuha said. “I thought it was a great idea to get more people trained.”
For him, the matter is personal.
“My dad was saved by somebody who knew CPR and somebody who knew how to use a defibrillator. I just can’t imagine if … his event happened and nobody knew what they were doing.”
Some Big Island educators support the measure.
“Having performed CPR in my past life (as a firefighter), I firmly believe in the training,” Hilo High School Principal Robert Dircks said in an email. “Most of my staff have been trained in first responder and AED use. I feel comfort to know that if there was a life-and-death situation here at the school, the staff would respond without hesitation.”
SB 1388 and its companion legislation, House Bill 697, have been referred to committees in both chambers. As of Monday, no committee hearings have been scheduled.