High school students would learn in health class how to control bleeding under new legislation proposed in Trenton. (Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)
New Jersey high schoolers would learn how to control traumatic bleeding under new legislation one lawmaker said was partly inspired by concerns about mass shootings and expanded gun rights.
The bill, introduced last week by Sens. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) and Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), would make “bleed control” part of high schools’ mandatory health curriculum. Lessons could include how to apply pressure to injuries, use tourniquets, and communicate with emergency dispatchers.
“The genesis of the bill is because of the mass shootings,” Vitale said. “Clearly, that’s not the first thing that a student should do — they should seek shelter and safety. But this instruction would give them a life-saving tool to use not just for school, but for home, in the mall, or at the store.”
So far this year, there have been 414 mass shootings and 27,626 people have died of gun violence in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive. In New Jersey in recent years, firearm-related fatalities have ranged from a low of 368 in 2019 to a high of 485 in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
New Jersey historically has had lower gun deaths than other states, which gun rights advocates attribute to the state’s tight gun restrictions.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision in June forced New Jersey authorities to drop a requirement that gun owners prove a “justifiable need” to carry guns outside their homes or businesses. State police subsequently said they expect more than 200,000 people to apply for concealed carry permits in New Jersey. That has Vitale worried too.
“Having not just access to weapons but the ability to conceal-carry them should be concerning to everyone,” Vitale said.
Bleed control training is something that has caught on around the country. It’s endorsed by groups like the American Red Cross and the American College of Surgeons. And the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a “stop the bleed” campaign that connects people with trauma training and offers free curriculum materials to schools that teach it.
Michael Anestis heads the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center at Rutgers University.
“Mass shootings are horrible tragedies — we should do what we can to prevent them. But that’s not where most of the action is,” Anestis said. “One of the things we can try to do if we can’t stop it from happening is increase survivability. It’s a very reasonable goal.”
Anestis said schools should approach bleed control instruction in the same “calm” way they teach other life-saving skills in health class — instead of like active shooter training, which can distress students.
“If designed by the right folks and conducted in the right way, I think it’d be akin to training people in CPR, which is to say, ‘Look, chances are, you’re not going to need this, but if the moment came along where you encountered someone who was bleeding and needed help, and you’re waiting for the helpers to come, this is a thing you can do to help them,’” Anestis said.
Vitale said he hopes to have the Senate’s health committee, which he chairs, hear the bill this fall, after he collects input from school nurses, administrators, and other stakeholders.
The bill is among several Vitale has introduced to make schools safer.
He was a prime sponsor of a bill, signed into law in 2014, that requires high schoolers to learn CPR and defibrillator use. He also sponsored legislation requiring all public and private schools to have defibrillators and emergency action plans for sudden cardiac events. Janet’s Law, which became law in 2012, is named after the 11-year-old Warren girl who died in 2006 after experiencing cardiac arrest during cheerleading practice.
Vitale and Ruiz also are prime sponsors of a bill that would require high schools to verbally screen students for substance use, with the goal of getting them treatment. The screening would be confidential, and parents could opt their child out, according to the bill.
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