Public Comments for 02/12/2021 Education - K-12 Subcommittee
SB1169 - Student driver safety; driver education program shall include dangers of speeding.
SB1225 - Broadband services; school boards to appropriate funds for expansion of services for education.
Madam Chair and members of the committee, I strongly support this bill. My name is Tonja Roberts a product and parent of children who attended Halifax County public schools. We have the fourth largest county in land mass in Virginia and only one high school, one middle school and 6 elementary schools to accommodate thousands of students. In the one high school alone, 57% of students are economically disadvantaged. Many students live almost an hours bus ride one way and live in rural areas where broadband access is unavailable. Many students don’t have transportation during school hours if a parent is at work to find hotspots for internet. Perhaps, private transportation in the home is not available at all. Why should students and parents have to leave home to scramble to find internet service? Each individual child in the Halifax County public school district deserves equitable access to learning and learning resources. Broadband must be provided for the underserved, especially in the midst of a pandemic. The educational fallout will be devastating. Giving districts the ability to earmark funding for broadband will help in this endeavor. I ask that you vote in favor of this bill.
I encourage the committee to support SB 1387 because it is of crucial importance in ensuring equal access to education for all. As an immigrant to the US and a student at the University of Richmond, I have seen firsthand the challenges that undocumented students face on a daily basis. Indeed, higher education in the United States can be extremely expensive and out of reach for many undocumented students, who lack the basic financial and academic resources afforded to most documented students. Therefore, passing this bill would bring this committee one step closer towards securing educational equity and justice. Furthermore, I take it that it is also in the long-term economic interests of the state to have such a bill in place. Undocumented students who will benefit from this bill would go on to contribute to Virginia's economy through taxes. Therefore, in the long run, Virignia's economy stands to benefit a lot more from this bill in comparison to its short term costs. Due to these reasons, it is imperative that this committee passes the bill for in-state tuition eligibility for undocumented students.
SB1322 - Public schools; seizure management and action plans, biennial training, effective date.
As a teacher, I feel it is so important to have training for seizure response and action plans in school. Please pass SB1322.
Madam Chair and Subcommittee Members My name is Nidhi, from Loudon county. I am a parent of a 6 year old girl who has epilepsy and I am also a speech language pathologist who has worked in Virginia public schools, I feel this bill is important because it will not just serve the thousands of children that have seizures in our public schools but it is also important for our special education professionals to feel confident and comfortable about working with children that may have a seizure. As a parent I now know how to respond to a seizure but it is shocking to think that I worked in public schools as a special educator without any prior training in seizure disorders. Having a required seizure action plan in every school will provide educators with specific protocols to follow if a student has a seizure in their presence. As a parent and as an educator that gives me a lot of comfort and strength. In order to provide appropriate education for all our students, this is a very important bill. I have met too many teachers and educators that are freaked out by the thought of a seizure and panic when they witness one. We need educators to feel confident and be able to respond quickly if they observe a student having a seizure. This bill will provide the training necessary for all education professionals to feel at ease when responding to a seizure. “Please vote in favor of SB 1322, the Jamie and Brie Strong Act.”
Henrico does not support this bill. Although the health and safety of our students and staff is a top priority for Henrico, this bill seems to demand a more comprehensive approach than other student medical conditions. In HCPS, nursing supervisors in our school clinics are handling a variety of medical conditions including but not limited to: diabetes, tracheostomies, g-tube feedings, fragile students who have been discharged from hospital care and are coming to school organ transplants, student pregnancies, hemophiliac students, DNR orders for certain students, anaphylactic shock/condition treatment, chronic allergies, and port-a-cath students. We believe that seizure management needs to be handled by the school nurse who works closely with the attending physician and the family to develop a specific health plan to ensure that the student receives the necessary support, and then appropriate school staff members who interact with that student directly are informed and trained (this includes bus drivers, aides, library staff, or in elementary school, those supplemental teachers such as art, music, PE). To mandate biennial training for all nursing staff and teachers in the school division far exceeds what is done for these other very serious medical conditions. Teacher training is not cost neutral, and there is no budget amendment for this training.
Thank you for the opprotunity to express my support of SB1322, the Jamie And Brie Strong Act for Seizure Safe Schools. This legislation is important to ensure all school personnel are not only prepared but can recognize and respond to students experiencing seizures. I am a teacher who did not have the opportunity to receive seizure training before one of my student's had a seizure. I did not know this student, Jamie Van Cleave, was having a siezure. I only knew something was not right. When the school nurse told me she was fine I could not let go of my concern. i felt a strong prompting that I could not ignore to contact Mrs. Van Cleave and explain what I had witnessed and my concerns. Mrs. Van Cleave followed up and Jamie was ultimately diagnosed with epilepsy. That was ten years ago. As a teacher I can tell you that I am overwhelmed by the fear that I may have missed silent seizures in other students. It is devastating to know that despite free training being available we must fight to require school personnel to receive this training. I would never wish the guilt and fear I feel on my colleagues. The safety of my students is my highest priority and it should be every teachers hightest priority. I struggle to find the words to convince you that we must have this training. A 504 plan cannot replace this training. Many students who suffer seizures have not previously been diagnosed with a seizure disorder. Every year teachers receive training in diabetes management. I have had two students in ten years that this training prepared me to help. I gladly take that training every year because it may help a student. It doesn't matter what the odds are when a child's life is at stake. Please support SB 1322 so that schools are as safe a place for students with seizures as they are for students with diabetes. Teacher's organizations speaking out against this legislations do not represent teachers in the classroom. If a teacher is so selfish with their time that they oppose being properly trained to keep their students safe they are in the wrong profession. School personell need this training. Why would be even consider not being trained to identify seizures in the classroom? I beg you to support SB 1322. Our students need us. Please do not disappoint us. Thank you for your time.
Thank you to Senator DeSteph and the brave girls Jamie and Brie for fighting for this safety training. My son was diagnosed with epilepsy on his third birthday, and though fortunately his seizures are controlled right now, I shudder to think what would happen in his first grade classroom or elementary school if he were to have a seizure in front of people who were terrified and/or untrained.... and you know what? I WAS that terrified and untrained person when he had his first seizures years ago. I wish I had known what to do back then, but I had to learn the hard way. Please give our teachers and school staff confidence that they can help students with all types of seizures, and please give parents the reassurance that their children will be safe. Thank you.
As an educator for over 20 years, it is my opinion that legislation like this is a no-brainer. I personally have benefitted from being trained on how to react in emergency situations in order to protect my students from harm. We receive training on CPR, how to stop a child from choking, protecting children during hurricanes or from active shooters...all in an effort to know how to save a child in peril. Like all of these, seizure training takes little time and yet can help me save a child’s life. It costs nothing but my time but could be priceless if I ever have to use it.
I would like the training so I know how to respond to seizures in the classroom!
Bill SB1322 Seizure Action Plan is an overdue step in taking care of our children. As a teacher, I want to be prepared to help my students. As a parent of a child with epilepsy, I want my child to be safe at school. I will never forget my son’s math teacher having to get a substitute for a bell while he recovered from witnessing one of my son’s seizures. Thankfully my son’s classmates a few years back, had a training through our local Epilepsy Foundation. While the math teacher watched frozen in fear, his 7th grade students moved desks out of the way, rolled a sweatshirt to place under my son’s head as they rolled him on his side, swiped his VNS magnet, started a timer, and phoned the nurse. The math teacher came to me and asked “how did they know what to do...why weren’t they freaking out” Knowledge is comfort. Knowledge is calming. Knowledge is power. Teachers want to know how to help their students. When 1 in 25 people will have a seizure in their lifetime, educators will see seizures in their classroom. Educators need the tools to help their students.
Please vote in favor of SB 1322. This is not just about epilepsy. This free, online/on-demand training developed by EFA and CDC will keep children safe at school who suffer many other chronic (and acute) conditions that can cause a completely unexpected seizure. Please understand the magnitude of two students with epilepsy coming forward to help all public school students. There are inherent risks to labeling themselves with a condition that carries such a significant, yet unwarranted, stigma. They decided it was worth the risk. My daughter is a high school student and has battled seizures for 10 years. During 2020 she has undergone nearly two dozen medication adjustments to try to sustain seizure control. After experiencing seizures throughout the night for months she still showed up to class to give it all she had to give. Even with all of this going on she commits fully to her education by maintaining her grades. After she takes the SAT, she will undergo a surgical procedure in a few weeks that will hopefully offer her the relief she has been seeking for so long. Please meet students in the middle and give them an environment that is safe for them to thrive while they deal with incredible challenges in their personal lives and while they pursue permanent seizure relief. Even someone with months or years of seizure control can experience the unwelcome seizure breakthrough and the school must be prepared. While my daughter and so many other children living with seizures fight for their lives – both for their survival and for their quality of life, please help them stay safe at school because they have the right to an education and the need to focus on school rather than one of the most BASIC of needs –SAFETY— during their school day. To quote VEA's own testimony when they supported HB 1736, "A student's health is directly related to his or her ability to learn. Children with unmet health needs have a difficult time engaging in the educational process." While a nurse in every school is valuable, it does not preclude the need for other staff training. Nurses are not everywhere students are, and minutes and seconds count. Please vote YES to SB 1322. Thank you.
Madam Chair and Subcommittee Members My name is Nidhi, from Loudon county. I am a parent of a 6 year old girl who has epilepsy and I am also a speech language pathologist who has worked in Virginia public schools, I feel this bill is important because it will not just serve the thousands of children that have seizures in our public schools but it is also important for our special education professionals to feel confident and comfortable about working with children that may have a seizure. As a parent I now know how to respond to a seizure but it is shocking to think that I worked in public schools as a special educator without any prior training in seizure disorders. Having a required seizure action plan in every school will provide educators with specific protocols to follow if a student has a seizure in their presence. As a parent and as an educator that gives me a lot of comfort and strength. Moreover in looking at FAPE (free and appropriate public education), the only way we will truly provide appropriate education to children at risk of a seizure, is by passing this bill. “Please vote in favor of SB 1322, the Jamie and Brie Strong Act.”
Hi, I'm Michelle da Silva. Brie Gesick was diagnosed with Epilepsy at 7 years old. At the age of just 11, to her age now of 13 years old, she has bravely stood in front of politicians, delegates, news cameras, senators, etc - begging for a free, simple, one time training session be mandatory for school staff to know what life saving tips can be executed In the event a child have a seizure. It is time to tell her "bill passed" .
My name is Barbara Westlund. I am a teacher at Yorktown Elementary School in Yorktown, Virginia. My responsibilities at school prevent me from speaking today so I pray that you will give the same consideration to what I say here. Ten years ago I was walking down the hall with one of my first grade students when the student, Jamie Van Cleave, appeared to "space out". She was still walking beside me but she was non-responsive when I talked to her. I was concerned about what I had witnessed so I brought her to the nurse who sent her back to class with a note that she was fine. The event troubled me nonetheless so I called Mrs. Van Cleave and explained what I had witnessed. This was the beginnig of Jaime's journey with epilepsy. That was 10 years ago and I cannot hold back my emotions when I consider whether I had ever missed a seizure thinking Jaime was daydreaming. What of other students that I thought weren't paying attention? Could they be having silent seizures? How would I know? I had no training to even give me a clue what a seizure may look like. I know that those who oppose this bill say a 504 plan will do everything this bill will do but that is not true. It is necessary that school personnel be trained to identify seizures and for nurses to be trained to administer seizure medicine. My highest priority as a teacher, even higher than the quality of education I delivery, is my student's safety. It was luck that had me respond to Jaime's seizure and children's health and safety should not be dependent on luck. I know the teacher's association was one of the groups who opposed this legislation. That group does not represent me if they do not put the health and safety of students first. An epilespy action plan is as critical as an asthma action plan. We'd never consider not having an action plan in place for an asthmatic. Why do less for a student who suffers from seizures? I do not know a single teacher, and I have polled many, who would be opposed to this. I ask for your support of SB1322 and express my deepest gratitude to Senator Bill DeSteph for his support throughout this process. Thank you for your consideration.
Regarding Bill 1322: It is imperative that we protect our students of all ages by participating in the Simple, Yet So Important Safety Training provided by the Epilepsy Foundation of America for Teachers & Staff in VA schools. This is so long overdue! Knowing what to do for a child or teen who is suffering from any kind of seizure literally can very well save their life, and at the very least protect them from falling and/or fracturing their skull, among other injuries. The fact that teachers/staff have been trained also will protect our children from being bullied by other students! Our Children Are Worth Protecting. I speak to the Teachers Unions & to our Politicians who have been duly elected by we, the people. IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO TO VOTE YES FOR THIS BILL. PLEASE DO NOT LET ANOTHER YEAR GO BY WITHOUT THIS SIMPLE, CRUCIAL TRAINING.
As a pediatric nurse and president of the Epilepsy Foundation of Virginia-Central Virginia Chapter I want to say how important this bill is to keep our children safe and in school. I have been working in the field of Epilepsy for over 30 years and have trained and educated teachers, school nurses, aides, bus drivers and the community on seizures and First Aid fr seizures. I worked on the free program that the Epilepsy Foundation and the National Association of School Nurses out together so that all staff in a school setting can learn. it is my educated opinion that if people know what to do if someone is having a seizure than the chaos and potential for injury can be avoided. Anyone can have a seizure at anytime not just those diagnosed with epilepsy and the sooner care is given the safer the situation is. 504 plans do not adequately plan for this situation and all children with epilepsy do not have a 504 plan. This training may help identify those children who are experiencing a seizure but have yet to be diagnosed. Education is the key to a safe school environment. Please pass this bill and keep our children and the schools safe. Kathryn O'Hara, RN Epilepsy Nurse Clinician Virginia Commonwealth University email@example.com
I am the parent of Jenevieve Munson who has epilepsy. Please vote in favor of this important legislation for all students that suffer from epilepsy. It is very important that we show our children that they matter and they should feel safe in our public school systems. This is one giant step that will help improve the life’s of many and help give parents a small piece of mind when their child is away. By you voting in favor of this legislation will not only change the quality of life in the 1 in every 26 of people who suffer from epilepsy, but will help empower them in knowing their are people around who can help them live their best life.
As a special education teacher and a person with epilepsy, please pass SB1322. I have had a seizure in the classroom, and I have responded to students having seizures in the classroom. The teacher a few doors down from me has no history of seizures and no epilepsy diagnosis, but she had a seizure in the classroom last year. Her assistant wished you had passed this bill last year! Anyone in a school, whether it be a student, a staff member, or a visitor, can have a seizure, as 1 in 10 people will have a seizure in their lifetime. When I began having absence seizures, my teachers noticed that something was wrong but had no idea what was happening. They wrote me off as “spacey," and I went undiagnosed for at least 3 years. When I had my first tonic-clonic seizure as a high school student, my teacher left the room to find someone who knew first aid, while my peers panicked and bullied me. As a teacher, I have learned about numerous students and staff members in my little school who experience varied types of seizures. School staff members, regardless of prior experience with seizures, want this training. Please provide it! Pairing that training with a Good Samaritan clause empowers school staff and protects schools from potential lawsuits. As special education committee (SEC) chairperson, I often sit in on discussions to determine if a student may require an IEP or a 504 plan. A 504 plan or an IEP ensures access to academics. A seizure response plan, like an allergy plan, provides safety. I feel safe going to work because my school already provides seizure plans, and mine is printed in an accessible location in the classroom. With your vote, thousands of other Virginia staff members will be able to say the same in a few years.
It is crucial to have training in school in order to recognize and provide appropriate help to staff and or children,
My name is Jamie Van Cleave. I’m 17 years old and have been living with Epilepsy for 10 years, and continue to fight for seizure control. Statistically I have <2% chance of gaining full seizure control because I am medication resistant. For years I remained quiet about my condition. This is not uncommon because of the stigma that comes with this diagnosis. I learned to speak up by getting involved in Epilepsy Foundation of America’s Teens Speak Up and Public Policy Institute a few years ago. By using my voice and sharing my experiences I hope to create change for myself and others- not just for those with a diagnosis, but anyone who experiences a seizure. I want this bill to pass, because I know what it is like to go to school scared. Brie and I don’t want other students to go through what we have experienced. This bill is essential to keep all public-school students safe, because anyone can have a seizure. From my personal experiences in public school, I know that it is common that school staff are not able to recognize a seizure, nor assist me during one. My first seizure was in first grade and the school nurse did not recognize it, and sent me back to class. Teachers have sent me to walk the hall to the nurse’s office during seizures. They have sent me with another student to walk to the nurse’s office during a seizure. When sharing my emergency response needs, I have been laughed at. Many times, I have had to stay home and miss classes when I don’t feel my best, because teachers won’t know how to respond. I have had to sit out of school projects, trips, and afterschool activities due to the risk of staff not knowing how to respond if I have a seizure. Sometimes my seizures pass and I can go on with my day, but sometimes it leads to an ER visit to pull me out of it. I often wonder if anyone will be able to help me if I have a seizure at school. The steps to keep someone safe during seizures are very easy, but without proper training, seizures can be deadly. Please pass SB1322 so that all public-school students can attend school safely without the dangerous possibility of seizures going unrecognized or leading to something worse.
As a teacher, please pass SB1322! This training could save lives--both student and staff!
Madam Chair and Committee Members, My name is Kathy Lennartz, and I was a 5th grade teacher with the York County School Division from 1998 to my recent July retirement. Below is the comment on I recently posted on the public comment space. “Teachers in the state of Virginia are required to go through annual training for Safe Schools. This includes training on diabetes to include what it is, the types, and how to assist a student if needed. It also includes training on allergies to include what causes allergic reaction to include anaphylactic shock and how to assist a student if needed. Teachers are given ample time to complete the training. Why is this mandatory? It is mandatory because teachers will have students in their classrooms that may have diabetes or may suffer allergies. The Jamie and Brie Strong Act for Seizure Safe Schools (SB1322) includes training for epilepsy for the same reason the other training is offered-to ensure students with these conditions are safe at school. This bill would ensure that schools throughout Virginia provide the same "safety net" for students who may experience seizures as students who may experience insulin shock or anaphylaxis. We do many things to train to keep children safe at school. The passing of this bill would allow students to know that they are safe at school and will be taken care of in the event of a seizure. As a classroom teacher, I am asking that SB1322 be passed.” I would like to add to the above public comment: One might suggest that parents, students, and schools use the avenue of a 504 plan to address their safety and seizure after-care. Schools determine eligibility for 504 if the student’s condition prevents him or her from learning thus succeeding academically. I would like to add that the students that I have had in my classroom in the past who were diagnosed with seizure disorder were high achieving students academically. These students would not have been found eligible for accommodations under Section 504. Again, I am asking that SB1322 be passed so that all students can feel safe at school knowing that the staff and teachers know what to do in the event that the student experiences a seizure. Thank you for your consideration of this important legislation.
Everyone would benefit from training to support those with seizures so that these individuals have the same access to education. School personnel need to be thoroughly trained to be sure that they make appropriate decisions with the safety of their students with epilepsy at the forefront.
My Name is Ashley Wells and currently I reside in the Varina district, in Eastern Henrico. I am a Registered EEG Technician and the Lead EEG tech for VCU Health Systems Level 4 Epilepsy Center. Most importantly, I am the mother of a 6-year-old boy named Ryan that has Epilepsy. I am in favor of SB 1322 and the vital role this Bill will play in the recognition of seizures and proper safety techniques. Our family has personally been impacted by the lack of education and responsiveness to seizures in the classroom. When my son was first diagnosed, he was having about 50 seizures day and the teachers in his class were not aware this was occurring. This was simply because they associated seizures as convulsions, which was not the case for my son and numerous other children living with a seizure disorder. In addition, since starting Pre-school I have offered training to school staff and been denied. Last year my son had an episode at school and the teacher who was unsure what to do contacted me. I had to leave work and give instructions over the phone of how to care for him until I could arrive at the school. Proper seizure recognition and safety training could have prevented this. When dealing with seizures every second is valuable in the care of the patient, “Time is Brain”. Currently 11,000 Children are living with Epilepsy in the State of Virginia. Without the proper identification and timing in treatment this could significantly impact there outcome. By bringing this awareness into schools, the staff, the students with epilepsy and their families can feel safe and have a wonderful academic experience while also not living in fear while attending school. I Ask that you please vote in favor of SB 1322, the Jamie and Brie Strong Act, for Seizure Safe Schools
Carolina Kirsten Volzka was a vibrant girl that lit up any room she walked into, in particular the skating rink she so loved. Kahi Augustin was an honor roll student and a talented artist, who aspired to be a professional illustrator. Seizures cut Carolina and Kahi's dreams short. They were 13 and 17 years old, respectively, when they suffered seizures on school property last year. No one responded to their seizures properly or in time. Passing SB 1322 is a matter of life and death. There are 11,000 children in Virginia with diagnosed seizure disorders - like Kahi. We also know that about 10% of people will have a seizure in their lifetime, regardless of whether they have a seizure disorder or not - like Carolina. Sending children to school knowing how common seizures are, yet doing nothing to prepare staff for action in the event of a seizure is grossly negligent. Those opposed to the passage of this bill have called the seizure response training and seizure action plan components a "burden" for staff. How can someone entrusted with the life of a child in good conscience believe that? We send our children to school, because we trust that staff care deeply about shaping their futures. Well, you cannot shape a student's future without understanding the health risks that so deeply shape their present and that are hell-bent on taking that future away. Virginia school staff are required to receive First Aid/CPR/AED training, because a medical emergency like an allergic reaction or heart attack can occur at any time. All parties - parents, staff, and students - can agree that schools would feel unsafe were staff not to have this preparedness. Well, schools remain unsafe. Those with seizure disorders, and really all students since, again, anyone can have a seizure, are not safe. It is in the best interest of all Virginians to support this bill. 5 other states have already enacted Seizure Safe School laws and 18 more have legislation moving its way through the legislature. International health organizations have granted their support to this legislation, meaning that the whole world is watching what action or inaction Virginia takes. Virginia has been a leader through much of her history and here is yet another opportunity to be one. We can be up next or be last when shaping schools to be seizure safe. In the amount of time it took to think this legislation over from last year, the world lost Carolina or Kahi. Please don’t let this happen again and pass SB 1322.
SB1439 - Students; guidelines on excused student absences, civic engagement.
I fully oppose this bill. Students should not have to participate in a political or civic event so they can get the excused absence they need. I DO NOT urge adoption of this bill.
SB1106 - Public School Assistance Fund and Program; created.
I'm providing this comment on behalf of Norfolk Public Schools. The division strongly supports SB 1106, which would create the Public School Assistance Fund and Program. Norfolk is a large urban school division, and 60% of our schools are 60 years old or older. Renovations, modernization and ongoing maintenance are extremely important for these older buildings and this would provide a specific funding source for these large projects. Our students cannot be expected to learn in buildings with leaking roofs, mold infestations, and failing heating and air conditioning systems. We need a funding source for these large projects, and this legislation would provide that. Please pass this bill; it will provide a necessary step toward providing a sorely needed resource for Virginia's schools.
Im a student from floyd i hate online school because it is harder and i dont get to see a lot of my other friends.Its been hard and i hope this all ends so we can see all of our friends again and for things to go back to normall again.