BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - A recent school board decision means that all Brevard County students will be required to learn CPR before they can graduate.
The Brevard County school board approved the addition to its student progression plan for the 2017-2018 academic year during its meeting Tuesday night.
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"To see it come to fruition, just blows me away, honestly," Viera High School parent Shawn Sima said.
Sima, an Air Force veteran and orthopedic physician's assistant, advocated mandating CPR teaching for nearly two years since his daughter, Lexi, a senior cheerleader at Viera High, suffered cardiac arrest.
"Basically, she died running on the treadmill," Sima said of the February 2016 health scare. "She experienced sudden cardiac arrest. Her body was completely limp before she ever hit the gym floor.
"Completely unexpected, she's played soccer, softball, basketball. She's been a four-year cheerleader," the father said of his daughter he described as a healthy, lifelong athlete.
Lexi's life was saved thanks to people who knew CPR and a defibrillator that revived her.
The American Heart Association says cardiac arrest kills more people in the country than anything and it's the most likely way for a child to die at school.
"I was just astounded at the statistics that I was seeing," Sima recalled while researching cardiac arrest beside his daughter's hospital bed.
Compression-only CPR and automated external defibrillator training will be added to Health Opportunities through Physical Education, which is a course that teaches students about diseases and disorders, first aid, sexual health and internet safety in addition to physical education.
According to the school board agenda, the CPR training must be in compliance with the American Heart Association, Red Cross or another nationally recognized program so students are learning the most current version.
Students who have already taken the HOPE course will not be required to retake it or get CPR certified before graduating, a Brevard County Public Schools spokesman said.
The superintendent of each school will be responsible for making sure that the training is taught either by the school or by a community-based partner.
Brevard County is now the eleventh district of 67 in the state to require CPR as a graduation requirement.
Sima is now working with state lawmakers on legislation for all Florida high schoolers.
"To think of all the lives that could be saved with a lot of the things that we're doing. A lot of good has come out of what happened to Lexi. Even though my daughter has a defibrilator in her chest, she said it, I say it all the time. I don't think I would change this," he said.
Brevard County's new CPR requirement will be fully implemented during the next school year.
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