BEMIDJI — Parents of students in Minnesota can have more peace of mind this school year when it comes to their schools’ crisis response protocols.
Signed into law by Governor Tim Walz on June 30, 2021, Minnesota has joined the ranks of 13 other states in passing seizure smart school legislation, which requires public and charter schools to implement action plans and training to meet the needs of students with seizure disorders who may need medication.
“Before this school year, students who experienced a crisis at school had no assurance that their school staff could respond to their crisis and help them stay safe,” said Glen Lloyd, executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota. “Now families have peace of mind that if a crisis occurs at school, students will receive the care they need and deserve. »
According to Lloyd, the Epilepsy Foundation has provided training, education and support to thousands of schools across the state since 2010. However, schools needed to be proactive in requesting this training by 2022.
“Now, Seizure Smart Schools legislation requires that this school year, every public and charter school have at least one staff member trained in crisis response,” Lloyd added. “The responsibility no longer lies with individual families or educators.”
Willmar’s Ruth Schmitz offered a basic framework for Seizure Smart Schools in an academic paper she wrote in 2019. She sent it to Deputy Minority Leader Dave Baker, R-Willmar, who then authored the initial legislation that was soon to be adopted.
“We led our community to rally behind the effort and luckily we saw the bill pass in 2021,” Lloyd detailed.
According to Minnesota Law 121A.24, a foreclosure action plan must:
- Identify a school nurse or designate at each school site who is on duty during the normal school day and can administer or assist in administering US Food and Drug Administration-approved seizure relief medications.
- Require training for the designated employee on anti-epileptic drugs, recognition of signs and symptoms of seizures, and appropriate steps to respond to seizures.
- Be dropped off at the office of a principal, registered school nurse or other professional nurse or designate in the absence of a registered school nurse.
The designated employee or volunteer should also receive notice and a copy of the plan, which in turn should provide a means of contact in the event of an emergency.
Lisa Necastro, Regional Outreach Manager for Western Minnesota with the Epilepsy Foundation, has been active in training area schools, including St. Philip Catholic School, Blackduck Public Schools and Win- E-Mac.
“Schools are a great place for these trainings, but any community organization could benefit from them,” Necastro said. “The Bemidji area has been an area of focus and (The Epilepsy Foundation) has planned and organized several social events in Bemidji to support and unite individuals and families affected by epilepsy.”
Necastro detailed the annual United in Epilepsy Walk fundraisers, for which Bemidji was one of eight towns in the state to host in August 2022. The Foundation has so far raised a total of $184,672 across all events to raise awareness and show solidarity with those who suffer from epilepsy.
She also mentioned the Foundation’s giving season, for which the public can make crafts and holiday cards that will be delivered to residents of local long-term care facilities this year. A meal and conversation will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 27 at the Bemidji Public Library.
Understanding not only the individual but also family impacts of epilepsy, Necastro noted a personal connection to the Foundation’s mission with his son who has epilepsy.
“I know what it’s like to send a child to school and I wonder what will happen if they have a seizure and I know how important communication is between parents and school staff. school,” she said. “I am happy to be able to provide this support as someone who understands and shares many of the same experiences.”
According to Lloyd, approximately 7,000 young people in Minnesota live with epilepsy and more than 3,000 are enrolled in public or charter schools. Citing the American Academy of Pediatrics, he added that seizures are the third most common school emergency.
“Most of the time, the crises don’t look like the ones in the movies. Many times it can seem like a student isn’t listening or paying attention,” Lloyd said. “When educators are trained in what seizures look like, they can be part of the diagnostic process, alerting families who may not yet know their child is living with epilepsy.”
Bringing these training opportunities to rural areas is one of those priorities that the Foundation aims to address.
“Rural communities like Bemidji don’t have the same community resources as the metropolitan area,” Lloyd added. “Seizure Smart Schools is a step towards ensuring that every family living in Bemidji has the level of support they deserve.”
More information can be found at www.epilepsyfoundationmn.org.