Florida School Bus Drivers Now Required to Have First Aid Training

school bus drivers, Florida school bus drivers

Florida school bus driversAny time a child dies on-board a school bus, it's a tragedy - but it's particularly tragic when the death would have been preventable. That is the case in the death of Terissa Gautney on Feb 28, 2018, on a school bus in Bartow, Florida. Terissa was a special needs student with medical issues, who experienced a silent seizure followed by respiratory distress.

Her situation was noticed quickly by a bus aide, who had the driver pull over and call 9-1-1. However, lacking any first aid or CPR training, neither adult had any ability to help her, and they had to wait 20 minutes for an ambulance. She was taken to the hospital and died a few days later. The opinion of medical responders is that, had she been given CPR while on the bus, she probably would have lived.

So as a result, Florida has amended their laws to require CPR and first aid as part of school bus driver training, for both drivers and any on-board aides, along with a requirement for ongoing biennial re-certification. This requirement goes into effect in November 2020.

While on the face, this seems like a good idea, it does raise a few questions.

Should Everyone's School Bus Driver Training Include CPR?

The hypothetical real-world benefit of CPR training is obvious. In cases like that of Terissa, proper administration of CPR might have kept her alive. Likewise, in specific circumstances, first aid training could also save lives.

But the question is, is this a responsibility that should be piled onto drivers, along with all the other responsibilities they already juggle?

After all, school bus drivers are hired for their driving ability. CPR and first aid are well outside their core competencies. Nor can a few hours' training every other year really make them competent to handle real-world medical emergencies, particularly if they rarely - if ever - have an opportunity to practice these skills in the meantime.

Let's not forget, CPR can potentially do damage, even if performed correctly.  Cracked ribs, for example, are fairly common - occurring in around 30% of CPR cases. On a healthy person, this is a moderate inconvenience and a small price to pay for survival. But what about a child like Terissa, who already suffered from numerous health issues?

There's also the matter of rescue breathing and the chances of disease transmission.

At the least, it seems there are some major questions about liability which are not in any way addressed by Florida's legal amendment. And it seems worrisome to consider scenarios where bus drivers believe they're legally compelled to intervene in medical issues, even if they feel unfit.

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What do you think? Do the potential benefits here outweigh the dangers, or should Florida have thought harder about their law? Let's talk about it below.