Today, At-Large Councilmember Robert White and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen are introducing legislation to ensure that DC students with epilepsy and other seizure disorders are guaranteed safe and supportive learning environments and have access to necessary care and medication in school settings.
The Seizure-Safe Schools Amendment Act of 2023 would:
- Require at least two teachers or administrators at DCPS, public charter, and private schools be trained in seizure recognition and administering emergency seizure medication;
- Ensure students with epilepsy and other seizure disorders have individualized Seizure Action Plans included in their school files, and that the plans are available to personnel responsible for the students;
- Require schools to provide training every two years to staff on the recognition of the signs and symptoms of seizures and the appropriate steps for seizure first aid;
- Require schools to provide age-appropriate epilepsy and seizure awareness education for all students; and
- Ensure protection from liability for school employees who are tasked with providing emergency seizure first aid to students under the legislation.
“When Oliver reached out to me with this idea and shared how he worries for students like himself living with Epilepsy in the classroom, I was onboard immediately. His advocacy and passion to see this change made is why we’re here today. We have around 800 children who live with epilepsy in the District, and our schools need to be prepared to respond safely and quickly if a student has a seizure. Parents, students, and teachers deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing students are safe,” said Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen.
“I’m proud to join my colleague Councilmember Allen in introducing this bill, which was championed by Oliver, a DC resident and student advocate for epilepsy safety, and State Board of Education Representative Brandon Best,” said At-Large Councilmember Robert White. “Seizures can be disorienting, and the last thing students with seizure disorders and their parents need is more uncertainty, wondering whether teachers and staff know how to help. The Seizure-Safe Schools Amendment Act of 2023 provides crucial education for both students and teachers and puts in place steps to ensure students with epilepsy and other seizure disorders can get the care they need at school.”
“When I first had a seizure at school, the teachers had no idea what to do,” said Ward 6 student Oliver Tineo Coppola. “This bill, if enacted, would ensure that is not the case for the 1 in 26 children in the District that have epilepsy. I hope the Council is able to pass legislation quickly so that next school year, kids will be safe.”
“Seizures rank in the top three emergencies at schools across the US,” said Oliver’s mother Maria Coppola. “Seizure first aid requires immediate assistance, is easy to learn, and it’s simple to administer – equipping our teachers could allow them to literally save a life. With this bill, the DC Council shows its commitment to protecting the District’s children – children like my son, Oliver. I’m most grateful to my representative, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, and to At-Large Councilmember Robert White for introducing the bill, and I’m confident the other Councilmembers will join them in passing this legislation that will protect our teachers and our children.”
“We are grateful to Councilmembers Charles Allen and Robert White, and the Tineo Coppola family for embarking on this effort with us so that all schools in the District of Columbia can be equipped with the tools needed to provide a safe and enriching environment for all children with epilepsy,” said Laura Weidner, Esq., Chief Advocacy & Government Relations Officer, Epilepsy Foundation. “If this bill is passed, it will not only raise awareness about epilepsy and seizures, it will also help implement a uniform standard of care and response across D.C. so that students have access to the care they need at school. To date, Seizure Safe Schools has been enacted in nearly half of the states, and we will continue to advocate for legislation to be implemented in every state, including D.C.”
“Every family deserves the peace of mind that their child, irrespective of their health challenges, is in an environment that not only nurtures their academic growth but also prioritizes their safety and well-being,” said Brandon Best, Ward 6 State Board of Education Representative. “This legislation takes a significant step toward ensuring our schools are equipped to support students with seizure disorders.”