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Ripon Unified may embrace campus AEDs
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Ripon Unified schools may allow the placement in schools of devices that are used to restart hearts,
Automated External Defibrillators (AED) that range in cost from $800 to $1,000 have been purchased and donated by individuals and community groups in Ripon for placement at the Ripon Library, Ripon Christian Schools, Ripon Community Center, and the Ripon Senior Center.
Advocates for the use of AEDs have been lobbying Ripon Unified to allow their placement in the public schools.
Old state laws that could have created liability issues prompted district officials initially to be hesitant.
On Monday, Ripon Unified Superintendent Ziggy Robeson indicated the district is now considering the addition of the AED units in their schools. She noted that while there are 20 states across the country using the defibrillators for unexpected life threatening emergencies, California has yet to adopt the use of the AEDs state wide.  
“Some districts have begun to equip elementary and middle school sites with AEDs as well,” Robeson said. “The primary reason for this new protocol is to attempt to minimize the time for treatment for a person having a cardiac emergency.  Every minute a person is having such a cardiac event, and is not treated, it results in an eight percent loss for their potential recovery.”
Robeson said that while there are presently no statistics or tracking programs showing the use, success or failure of AED technology throughout the public school systems, it is still prudent to consider implementation of such devices and policies into the Ripon district in order to ensure that RUSD students and staff have the best possible chance of recovery in such instances.
“The Ripon Unified School district is now considering implementation plans, costs and funding for AED devices and the training of school personnel in their use,” she said.
Nearby districts such as Manteca Unified currently do not have AEDs on campuses.  Manteca schools have not subscribed to the use of AEDs since the ambulances and fire trucks in that community are already equipped with the units.   
The San Joaquin County Office of Education has units placed throughout their facility in Stockton just north of the airport.
Robeson noted that the matter will be discussed at a future school board meeting. 
She said that as of September of last year new California law has improved the logistics of school use of AEDs, however prior laws still exist and may require additional policy clarification and continue to hold the district and its employees at significant risk, she said.
Ripon’s Facebook chatter has been overwhelmingly in favor of advancing the placement of AEDs through Ripon including in the public schools.
Ripon Fire Chief Dennis Bitters has offered to teach school staff on the proper use of the AEDs as well as promising to service the life-saving units once a year and then retrain staffers yearly. 
There are reportedly two lawsuits pending at area schools related to the use of the AEDs. One came from its being locked in a closet in Lodi and the other because it had not been maintained and its battery power had drained down at another district.
The community Facebook campaign was stepped up after an AED television feature on the Today Show last week.  It focused on school children and the possibility of them having a cardiac arrest on campus when there had been no previous warning that they had a heart condition – questioning the unavailability of the AED units. 
“An AED and two teachers saved my niece’s life in Texas,” one texting parent wrote on Facebook.  “If they hadn’t had them in their schools, she would be dead today.”
Where once the installation of an AED in a school setting required an on-site medical director, that has changed with the simplification of the newer units. Some are even designed as vests and most signal the user when they are not needed.
The Ripon High Quarterback Club donated one unit to Ripon Christian High School and said they offered one to Ripon Unified, noting the offer was declined for fear of liability last year.
One Intensive Care Unit nurse responded on social media saying she would willingly teach students and staffers how to use the AEDs.  “These things save lives and I’m all about having them in all our schools.  In fact, I can’t believe they already aren’t,” she wrote.
A college student at MJC said she was amazed that Ripon Unified wouldn’t allow the life-saving units to be available at Ripon schools.  “They do save lives.  I see them located at many places throughout the MJC campus.  And, for people who don’t know anything about them, it gives you step by step instructions on how to operate them,” she wrote.
There were a five printed pages on the AED controversy in Ripon Schools from throughout the community that had been placed on Facebook last week.
The Ripon Unified School District’s Board of Trustees is expected to take a second look at the question pf AEDs in the schools at its next meeting to be held in mid-November.

To contact Glenn Kahl, email