Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders, but many K-12 schools don’t have seizure preparedness protocols in place. Staff who understand seizures and know how to provide aid during a seizure help keep students safe and can even save lives.
Use Seizure Action Plans
Review your policies and procedures for supporting students with epilepsy or a seizure disorder. Ensure your school requires a seizure action plan be filled out for all students who have disclosed a seizure disorder. Seizure action plans are a way for your school to collect essential seizure information about students so you can access it quickly when needed.
Your plan should include:
- Parent and health care provider contact information
- The student’s known seizure types
- First-aid instructions, including rescue medications
Having a written plan helps staff calmly and confidently respond to the seizure and provide support tailored to the specific student.
Review your state or local laws to understand if your school is subject to specific legal requirements. Some states, including Kentucky, Indiana, Texas, New Jersey, and Illinois, have enacted seizure smart school laws, with requirements such as training, designated care aides, and mandated seizure action plans. Ensure you comply with these and any other local mandates applicable to your school.
Train your health services employees on seizure response and offer training for interested teachers and staff as well. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows that the number of health educators who desire professional development on epilepsy or seizure disorder is almost three times the number who receive such training. Given this strong interest and the significant positive impact this training has for students, it seems prudent to raise awareness and accessibility of training for your staff.
The CDC offers a free, on-demand course: Seizure Training for School Personnel. The course includes:
- An overview of seizures and epilepsy
- Seizure first aid
- Seizure action plans
- Rescue therapies
- Seizure emergencies and how to support students in school settings
The CDC notes that the course is appropriate for school nurses, teachers, aides, bus drivers, coaches, administrators, and anyone who works in a school setting.
Make sure all trained staff understand which seizure situations necessitate a call to 911. Provide specialized training to the health staff who will be charged with administering any necessary medications. They may not be familiar with rescue medications —including diazepam and vagus nerve stimulation — that are specific to seizures.
Educate the School Community
Sometimes there is a stigma associated with epilepsy. Educating students can be one way to lessen that problem. Education also can reduce the fear that other students may feel if they witness a classmate having a seizure. If students with seizure disorders wish to be part of educating their class or school, allow them to assist. Some students may wish to have the education happen without them present; respect those wishes as well.
Also educate teachers and staff about common seizure triggers, such as flashing bright lights and patterns, so those employees can identify and potentially avoid triggers from occurring around students with seizure disorders. Understanding that stress, illness, and sleep deprivation also can trigger seizures is important so teachers can understand other issues impacting students with seizure disorders.
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About the Author
Christine McHugh, Esq.
Senior Risk Management Counsel
Christine’s areas of expertise include employment law, sexual assault prevention, protection of minors, traumatic brain injury, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Before joining the Risk Research team, she handled UE liability claims for several years. She previously practiced employment and higher education law.