CPR training now required for all Kansas high school students; local districts weigh in

This Shutterstock photo shows a dummy used to teach CPR.

For more than a decade now, students at Baldwin High School have had to undergo mandatory CPR training as part of their school’s health curriculum. Although other schools across the state have similar classes, the life-saving skill hasn’t been a graduation requirement statewide — until now.

Starting in the fall, high schools across Kansas will be required to provide CPR training to all students. The new standard, voted in unanimously by the Kansas State Board of Education earlier this month, makes Kansas the 38th state in the country to have CPR training as a high school graduation requirement.

Paul Dorathy, superintendent and curriculum director for Baldwin City schools, said he hadn’t heard much about the development when the Journal-World telephoned a few days after the new rule’s passage on Dec. 12.

“To be honest, I think we need to know more specific details about it,” Dorathy said, when asked for his reaction earlier this week.

Baldwin High School has offered CPR training for more than a decade now, Dorathy said, through its freshman-level physical education classes. Every student who graduates from Baldwin High is required to take the class, which also teaches students how to use automated external defibrillators, or AEDs.

The Baldwin City district currently has two certified instructors to facilitate training, with Baldwin High’s school nurse responsible for maintaining the portable defibrillators. Dorathy said the training, built into the school’s health curriculum, has been “really successful” over the last 10-plus years.

“It is a really important skill that our kids should have, and all of our kids are getting that and more because they’re doing the AED training at the same time,” Dorathy said.

He doesn’t anticipate making a huge adjustment to curricula because of the new statewide requirement, but also said he hasn’t yet received any guidelines from the Kansas State Board of Education or the state’s education department.

Eudora Schools spokeswoman Kristin Magette expressed similar sentiments when asked how her district was reacting to the news and preparing for next fall’s implementation. Like nearby Baldwin City, the Eudora district has offered CPR training for at least 10 years now, Magette said, though not as a graduation requirement.

Students enrolled in the district’s health career program receive CPR training and other related skills at the Eudora-De Soto Technical Education Center, which is located on the Eudora High School campus and serves students from both Eudora and De Soto districts.

“When they complete (the program), they have not just CPR but also first-aid and AED training,” Magette said. “… But that’s of course just a portion of our students.”

For now, she said, the district will wait for guidance from state education officials on how best to implement the requirement, adding that “we’ll do what it takes to deliver that to our students.”

To support the new requirements, the American Heart Association has pledged $25,000 worth of training kits to be distributed among seven regional service centers for school use.

Lawrence Public Schools spokeswoman Julie Boyle declined interview requests for this story, but did offer the following statement via email: “We’ve just learned of the new requirements and are eager to hear more about the next steps, so we can begin making plans to provide this training to our high school students.”

It’s estimated that nearly 33,000 students will be trained in CPR across Kansas after the state’s new requirement goes into effect next school year.

About a dozen states have yet to adopt CPR training as a high school graduation requirement, according to the AHA.