A year after Georgia launched a $1. 5 million program to teach educators how to stem bleeding if a student is shot or suffers other trauma, only 44 percent of the state’s public schools have taken part in the potentially lifesaving training. Even fewer have received kits containing items like tourniquets, gauze and trauma dressing that are supposed to be distributed statewide.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that some Georgia schools have not heard of the “Stop the Bleed” initiative. In other instances, school systems simply aren’t interested.
The Georgia Trauma Commission, which is overseeing the program here and is in charge of promoting it, said that only 1,010 of the state’s more than 2,300 public schools have participated in the course, endorsed by the White House in 2015 and pushed nationwide by the American College of Surgeons. Many of the districts that are lagging behind are in metro Atlanta, the AJC found.
“Some schools jumped on board. Others don’t see a value,”said Billy Kunkle, the trauma system planner at the Georgia Trauma Commission. “I really think we’re doing a lot of good.”
A recent wave of school shootings — from Parkland, Fla. to Santa Fe, Tex. — have spurred calls to do more to protect students. But many of those efforts have become stymied by the thorny politics of gun laws. While some gun control advocates believe the solution is tighter firearms controls, others argue attacks could be averted if schools were more heavily fortified and teachers armed.
Initiatives like “Stop the Bleed” are far less controversial and attract bipartisan support. So some are puzzled why Georgia schools haven’t joined in larger numbers.
“To have this in a school seems like a no-brainer,” said state Sen. John Albers, R-Alpharetta, chairman of a Georgia study committee examining school safety study.
Albers said he doesn’t understand what’s holding up training and the distribution of kits. “Is stuff sitting in a warehouse and not deployed where it’s best used? It’s something we need to look at right away,” Albers said.
The program was created in the aftermath of the deadly 2013 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The Georgia Legislature followed up by appropriating $1 million last year and then another $500,000 this year; there is no cost to school districts. That was to place 29,000 kits in public schools and another 7,000 kits in some of Georgia’s 18,000 school buses. Kunkle said the commission also plans to put kits in 139 emergency rooms and to train hospital staff because “a lot of emergency physicians and ED (emergency department) nurses many not have had training with tourniquet application.”
The value of tourniquets was evident at the school shooting at Parkland, Fla., where police officers on the scene used them to help bleeding students. And then again last month, when one of the resource officers responding to the shooting at Santa Fe High School near Houston put a tourniquet on another officer to stop profuse bleeding from his gunshot wound.
While school shootings have drawn the bulk of the attentions, the “Stop the Bleed” training and supplies are also useful for a host of other safety issues.
In North Georgia, a Forsyth County school nurse applied a tourniquet on the arm of a 9-year-old student who suffered an open fracture in a playground accident last April. Cumming Elementary School nurse Kathy Gregory said she had recently attended a training session and received her supply of emergency first aid kits the day before she needed to use them.
Kunkle said 35,000 Georgia teachers, school nurses and administrators had gone through the program since last summer based on rosters from each session. But the American College of Surgeons Trauma Committee puts the number of Georgia school officials trained at 3,773, a number that is based on the number of trainers who have gone to them for information. Nationwide, 133,000 school teachers and administrators have been trained, according to Bleedingcontrol.org, which bases its numbers on trainers who use the group’s “portal.”
The American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma recommends that as many as 10 people at each school should be trained. But many of the Georgia schools that have taken part in “Stop the Bleed” haven’t met that goal.
“We have told schools that’s not how our program works,” Kunkle said. “How our program works is you have a minimum of 10 people (trained). Our goal is to train every teacher in the state.”
The training is offered by local nurses, paramedics and emergency room doctors who volunteer their services.
In Gwinnett County, the state’s largest school district with 143 schools, nurses and clinic staff at just over 50 campuses have been trained. The goal is to have medical staff at each school train, district spokesman Bernard Watson said. Principals would then decide if they want teachers and other staff to go through the program.
Dr. John Harvey, a trauma surgeon at Gwinnett Medical Center and a past president of the Medical Association of Georgia, said while some school districts have “been very accepting, some don’t know if they want to do it (and) some don’t think a teacher should have to put on a tourniquet.”
School nurses in DeKalb County were trained last summer. Lead nurse Joann Harris said the district is considering also training security officers. “We’re looking to expand to others because we want as many of those individuals trained,” she said.
But in Atlanta, there has been no training at any of the 87 public school, according to records.
“We’re still working on getting them involved,” said Kunkle of the Trauma Commission.
Atlanta Public Schools spokesman Ian Smith said that about 15 APS staff, including 13 nurses, will get “Stop the Bleed” training in the upcoming school year.
But there are no plans to expand that training so every school will be covered.
Other schools were unaware of the program until recently.
Alex Casado, accountant for the tiny Social Circle School District, was the first in his school system to learn about it; at a worker’s compensation seminar several weeks ago.
“Everybody is trying to ramp up security and to make sure they take care of kids as they deserve,” Casado said. “I was surprised we hadn’t done it yet.”
Kunkle said information about the program is distributed at meetings of the Georgia Association of School Nurses and the Georgia Association of School Administrators. But there are no plans to do more than that.
Principals, assistant principals and nurses will be trained this summer along with staff from Social Circle School District central office.
Distribution of the emergency kits also has been slow, which Albers, the Alpharetta lawmaker, said he doesn’t understand.
“Is stuff sitting in a warehouse and not deployed where it’s best used? It’s something we need to look at right away,” he said.
The answer? Yes.
There are 10,000 “stop the bleed” kits storedin a warehouse in Forest Park that is owned by an ambulance service. Another 6,000 are in a storage unit in Augusta. Kunkle said kits are also at the Trauma Commission’s office in Rossville and scattered throughout Georgia.
Only 957 of the state’s more than 2,300 public schools have received kits, or 42 percent.
Kunkle said schools usually only get kits once the training has been completed, though they are occasionally available at training if there is a large group. He often delivers them to the EMS region and those offices get them to the schools in their respective areas.
“They don’t do any good sitting in a warehouse,”said state Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, chairman of the House Study Committee on School Safety. “I want to see them out to where the accidents happen. We need to get them out.”
One of those districts still waiting is DeKalb.
Seventy-nine school nurses from the county were trained last summer but the schools still don’t have kits.
“We received word a month or two ago that the kits have arrived but they haven’t been delivered yet,” Harris said
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