Lifesaving skills instruction required in Wisconsin schools

MIDDLETON, Wis. (WMTV) - Starting in the 2017-2018 school year, all Wisconsin schools were required to include CPR and AED instruction as part of the health curriculum for 7th through 12th graders.

“The goal of the CPR in schools program is to really empower students with the skills and the knowledge to really save lives,” said Ashley Riley, the Physical Education and Wellness Coordinator for Madison Metropolitan School District.

In 2016, Wisconsin joined nearly 30 other states which has passed similar legislation in the past five years requiring CPR education in schools.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction lists the requirements for CPR and AED instruction. Students are required to learn both cardiopulmonary resuscitation and cardiocerebral resuscitation, as well as receive instruction about automated external defibrillators.

The law requires a minimum of 30 minutes for training in a health class.
“Although many of our teachers are certified, the law doesn’t require a teacher to have that certification,” she said.

Riley says the instruction is simplified which means students do not receive any certification.

“It doesn’t require full CPR,” Riley said. “It’s hands-only CPR but I feel like this law allows all school districts to have the same kind of outcome.”

At Middleton High School, CPR and AED instruction was already a part of the curriculum for 9th grade health classes.

Anne Gravel, the Instructional Leader for the Middleton High School Physical Education and Health Department, says the required class educates students about what they can do before EMS arrives.

“We talk about compression only CPR, we talk about proper hand placement, keeping calm, and calling 911,” Gravel said. “

Middleton High School also offers a Lifeguarding course where students can receive a full CPR/AED certification upon completion.

“We enhance that basic compression only CPR that they’ve learned in their 9th grade health classes,” Gravel said. “It’s CPR/AED use for the professional rescuer, so on the job team rescue training.”

Lauren Vander Sanden is one of Gravel’s students this year.

“It’s very hands on and I like that aspect of it,” Vander Sanden said. “It’s something with me I can have for the rest of my life.”

She signed up for the class as a way to help her with her summer job where she’ll be teaching swim lessons.

“It’s nice knowing that you’re not just standing there helpless,” said Vander Sanden. “You’ll actually know what to do.”

While the students in the lifeguarding class are receiving a much more advanced level of training, Gravel says even basic CPR is an important skill to learn.

“There’s so many important things we teach in health,” said Gravel. “But this is a skill that hopefully they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Recently, the Madison Metropolitan School District received training tools from the American Heart Association and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“Being a larger school district, funding can often times be difficult when you’re looking at the whole district adopting something new,” Riley said.
The district received several CPR and AED kits. Each kit has a value of $650 and includes ten practice mannequins, as well as lesson plans for teachers.

“When you bring out the mannequins there’s something that just kind of gets them sparked to learn more about what this is,” said Riley. “It’s also an empowering experience to know how to save a human life.”

Many school districts are adapting ways to implement the program into their health education classes.

“Several teachers have made it into a little bit longer of a unit focusing more on heart health, life saving instruction things like that,” Riley said.
Gravel says basic CPR training has already made a difference.

“I do know of some person accounts of students in our building who have had family members have cardiac emergencies and they have been there to act,” she said.

As for her future life guarders, Gravel is confident they have the skills and are ready to take on the summer pools.

“Hopefully we’re doing a good job empowering our students to help,” said Gravel.

Wisconsin isn’t the only state to adopt laws like this.

In the past five years, nearly 30 other states passed similar legislation making CPR training a high school graduation requirement.