Proposed Texas Law Wants to Make School Children 'Battlefield' Ready

In response to school shootings, a new bill in Texas would require public schools to install "bleeding stations" and train kids as young as third grade in trauma care.

African American teacher supervising her students on a class in the classroom.

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Forget basic first aid. Texas lawmakers want kids as young as third grade to be able to treat wounds you might only see on a battlefield or in severe trauma situations—like, say, school shootings.

new bill introduced in Texas would require public and open-enrollment charter schools to install "bleeding stations" and train kids in trauma care methods developed by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the Department of Homeland Security. This type of trauma care is intended to be used by trained professionals to prevent or stop perilous blood loss. It also includes using "battlefield trauma" tools such as tourniquets, chest seals, and compression bandages.

Lawmakers introduced HB1147 just before the latest two mass shootings in Texas in late April and early May. The first took the lives of five people at a home in Cleveland. The second killed eight people and injured seven others at an outlet shopping center in Allen.

In the wake of these increased mass shootings—including in schools—lawmakers across the country are facing mounting public pressure to do something. From proposing to arm teachers to installing armed guards on school campuses, lawmakers have yet to create or pass gun control measures that can effectively stop the growing wave of gun violence in America. Instead, some parents are protecting their kids by sending them to school with bulletproof backpacks.

"School gun violence is preventable—we don't have to keep living this way, and our children and educators in Texas and across the country most certainly don't have to keep dying this way," Blair Taylor, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action in Texas, tells Parents. "As we approach one year since the devastating tragedy at Robb Elementary School, we know that the best way to prevent grief, trauma, and fear from gun violence in Texas is not by hardening schools or preparing students for war-like scenarios, but by fighting to prevent gun violence from impacting our kids, schools, and communities in the first place."

Bill Proposed to Teach Trauma Wound Care in Schools

HB1147 states that schools will be mandated to provide and maintain "bleeding stations" in easy-access areas to be used in the event of traumatic injury that causes blood loss. The bill also says that schools will be required to train safety personnel, including resource officers, security officers, peace officers, and other types of guards and "district or school personnel who may be reasonably expected to use a bleeding control station."

(Sidenote: Texas is one of the few states that require parents to opt IN for their child to receive sex education. But teaching them how to stop bleeding from a gunshot wound is ok. We digress.)

Most notably, the bill says kids as young as third grade will also be included in training on how to use a "bleeding station." The bill does not specify how detailed or involved the training will be for younger kids—third-grade kids are typically around 8 or 9 years old. That said, the American College of Surgeons has a well-known and respected program called ACS STOP THE BLEED, which presumably is what HB1147 may be modeled after.

May happens to be National "Stop the Bleed" Month, an effort across the country to educate people on how to control bleeding. According to the ACS website, "STOP THE BLEED® is a quick and effective training program that can make a life-or-death difference when someone is severely bleeding. By using direct pressure, packing a wound, or applying a tourniquet, anyone can be ready to act when a bleeding emergency occurs."

Looking at the training involved in life-or-death blood loss scenarios, one must wonder if a child as young as 8 or 9 is psychologically or emotionally capable of tending to someone who has been shot or injured severely enough to require such trauma care.

Could Trauma Training Cause Psychological Harm to Kids?

The question of whether or not kids in third grade are mentally or emotionally equipped to handle dealing with the aftermath of a violent event was immediately debated on social media. Twitter user @markmobility shared the text of HB1147 with his followers. The comments range from predictable outrage to an unsettling number of people who compare these proposed "bleeding stations" to teaching kids how to clean up a scraped knee at recess.

Some even called the potential training much-needed life skills that every kid should know. While yes, it is true that everyone at some point should learn basic first aid, what seems to be lost in the conversation is the dramatic severity of what these bleeding stations are intended to be used for—saving the lives of people who have been shot in a school.

"The idea that bleeding stations can be used for bumps and bruises seems to be a misdirection. This is a bad-faith question made by people who don't want to reckon with the ramifications of gun violence in our schools," says Kimberly Vered Shashoua, LCSW, a therapist practicing in Austin, TX. "Bulletproof backpacks can also be used to carry books. Bleeding stations, bulletproof backpacks, all of these interventions are only necessary because our schools aren't safe. Children aren't dumb. If you give them a bulletproof backpack, they'll know it's for guns. If you set up a bleeding station, they'll know it's for guns."

Tara Haidinger is a licensed professional counselor and certified clinical trauma specialist practicing in Texas specializing in kids, teens, and adults who have experienced trauma, including in school settings. She says third graders are too young to be trained on how to use a "bleeding station." Haidinger points out that even accounting for differences in maturity levels at this age, most children don't have a concrete concept of death and the consequences of major injury. Additionally, in the case of a traumatic event when a child would need to use such a station, it is not likely that they would be able to remain calm and focused enough to effectively treat an injury.

"The effects on children of installing 'bleeding stations' in elementary schools is going to vary greatly from child to child depending on that child's development level, prior experience with traumatic effects, and how prone they are to anxiety and worry," Haidinger says. "For some children, it might never cross their minds after the initial introduction. For other children, it can be a constant reminder that they are unsafe at school and bring on increased anxiety around going to school."

What Can Parents Do To Make Their Schools Safer?

The hard truth is that there is no quick fix to the gun problem in the United States. However, there is plenty parents and communities can do to demand change; the first step is to get organized by joining forces with grassroots campaigns like Moms Demand Action, which is a branch of the Everytown for Gun Safety organization.

Organizations like these advocate for laws and policies like background checks on all gun sales and secure gun storage laws.

"We are also urging lawmakers in Texas to hold a vote on a bill to raise the purchasing age for assault weapons and other semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21. The shooter at Robb Elementary School easily bought the assault weapons he used shortly after he turned 18, and 18 to 20-year-olds commit gun homicides at triple the rate of adults 21 years and older," Taylor says. "We expect our lawmakers in Texas to represent their constituents and pass meaningful, common-sense reform that can reduce gun violence and improve public safety for students, educators, and administrators in Texas schools."

If passed, HB1147 will go into effect on September 1, 2023, just in time for the next school year.

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