The state representative for Rusk County is looking for a Senate sponsor on a bill to equip teachers and school nurses to recognize and give first aid to students experiencing epileptic seizure.
State Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, named his measure “Sam’s Law” in memory of Kilgore High School senior Samantha Watkins, who died of an epileptic seizure at home in December 2016.
Watkins, 18, was a volunteer at Camp Gilmont in Upshur County, working with families of children with developmental disabilities at the Circle of Friends Camps. In the weeks leading up to her death, the standout soccer player, honor and dual-credit student had been exhibiting symptoms of the disease at school, family friend Shari Dudo said, but educators are not trained to recognized such medical signs — yet.
That prompted Clardy to write his legislation requiring teachers and nurses to watch instructional videos supplied by the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas on how to recognize worsening epilepsy and properly react if a student has a seizure.
“There are 33,988 students in the state of Texas that have epilepsy,” Dudo said, adding the number swells to 47,200 if preschool ages are included. “It’s the fourth-most common neurological disorder.”
Clardy, who represents Rusk, Cherokee and Nacogdoches counties in the Texas House of Representatives, sounded optimistic Sam’s Law will be well received in both chambers.
“I am grateful for the outpouring of support from constituents and my legislative colleagues as we address this important issue,” Clardy wrote in announcing the measure. “As we focus on school safety for our children, we need to raise awareness and take steps to protect Texas students who have epilepsy.”
The lawmaker is hopeful Sam’s Law will provide a blueprint for similar legislation nationwide.
“And Sam’s memory and legacy will save lives here in Texas and in other states far into the future,” he said.