Student Drowning Prompts CA Assembly Committee Approval of Bill Requiring Valid CPR Credentials for Teachers

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Assembly Bill 1214 was unanimously approved by the California Assembly Committee on Education, moving the bill to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further consideration by state legislatures. The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Melissa A. Melendez in honor of Alex Pierce — a 13-year-old Murrieta student who drowned during a school sponsored swim party – would require school districts in California to offer CPR training every two years and each teacher to have valid CPR certification every time they renew their teaching credentials.

Alex’s mother Sabrina Pierce traveled to Sacramento with her family and PSB attorney Robert Glassman  where she provided emotional testimony in support of the bill that aims to save the lives of California students in a medical emergency while under the care of school district staff, teachers and personnel.

Alex drowned while under the supervision of Murrieta Valley Unified School District teachers, staff and personnel in June 2016 – he slipped under the water and no rescue efforts were made by lifeguards, school district faculty or personnel who were supervising the event. Tragically, after Alex was brought to the pool’s surface by his classmates, novice lifeguards misevaluated the treatment and placed him on a backboard in the water instead of administering CPR. Paramedics arrived and removed Alex from the pool, placed him on the deck with the backboard beneath him to administer CPR before transporting him to a nearby hospital. Only one teacher at the pool party was CPR certified; he claimed he was not working at the time and therefore should not be held liable for the Alex’s death.

“Alex Pierce would still be here today if anyone at his school had performed CPR,” said Mr. Glassman following the 6-0 vote by the committee. “We are proud of the Pierce family for remaining vigilant in their quest for student safety in California schools and are optimistic that AB 1214 will keep moving forward through the state legislature in Alex’s honor so that it can help prevent other tragedies like this from occurring again.”

Panish Shea & Boyle LLP attorneys Rahul Ravipudi and Mr. Glassman represented Sabrina and Rodriguez Pierce in their wrongful death lawsuit against MVUSD and secured an $11 million settlement in August 2018. In addition to the monetary settlement, and as a condition of the agreement with the family, the District issued a letter of apology for the circumstances that led to Alex’s death and agreed to implement changes to its otherwise non-existent School Safety Plan policies and procedures, including mandatory CPR training to all District faculty as well as obtain a safety check of the District’s pool facilities by an independent third party — all training and pool safety compliance inspections must be completed by May 2020, with findings made publicly available on the District website.

The passing of AB 1214 by the Assembly Committee on Education is a step in the right direction for the safety of California students.

“We are very pleased with Assemblywoman Melendez’ bipartisan leadership and efforts in getting this bill passed into law. CPR saves lives and is a basic tool every teacher should have and be proficient in using during the entirety of their careers, not just at the beginning of it,” Mr. Glassman added.

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