Investigates Deaths of 3 Students
the first week of January, three public school students—19 year-old
Kimario Green, 16 year-old Katherine Bodden and 13 year-old Randy
Charlotte—died of cardiac-related problems on school grounds within
seven days. The tragic irony? Each child’s life might have been
saved by a defibrillator—and the New York State Legislature passed
a law requiring that all 1200 New York City Public schools be
equipped with defibrillators (AEDs) by December 1, 2002. Why the
noncompliance? The City Council, in a joint oversight public hearing
by the Committees of Education and Health, looked into the unacceptable
What emerged from the testimony is the gaping abyss between good
intentions and frustrating reality that often crops up where politics
are involved. Ex-Mayor Giuliani included $3 million in his budget
for defibrillators in public locations that, due to the current
cost crunch, was wiped out in its entirety by Mayor Bloomberg.
The Mayor later restored only a small portion, $500,000, at the
urging of the City Council.
Worse, “the scale of this law is much greater than we first understood,”
said Anthony Shorris, Deputy Chancellor for Operations and Planning
in the Department of Education. Shorris added that the devices
will cost $6.6 million—and that “there is much more to the program
than the purchase of the device.” Quite apparently, discretionary
funds must be found.
Then there’s training. The City will have to spend an additional
$1-1.5 million dollars to train 15,000 people to use the machines
and to have trained personnel around at all times in school and
at school events. “They can’t all be volunteers,” Shorris said.
are, of course, educators,” added Shorris. “Originally, we had
no familiarity with this whatsoever. We are not trained in the
use of medical and emergency devices.” Currently, a total 126
AEDs are deployed around the City, with 801 people trained to
use them. (Ironically, not a single one of them has been used
so far.) The school system has bought 300 AEDs so far, only one-tenth
of the 3000 required by law. “We will have them all up and running
by September,” Shorris promised.
Even with all the difficulties involved, however, the Department
has clearly dawdled. “I’d like to know, once December rolled around,
what the attitude around the DOE was,” asked Education Committee
Chairperson Eva Moskowitz. “Why didn’t you begin the process of
compliance sooner? Were you guys concerned? Was there a feeling
of inertia or rushing around? Or what?” First, the DOE was going
to hire outside help, came the answer. Then, once it realized
the true scale of this program, they abandoned that idea. Then
the Department scrambled, too late, to find defibrillators appropriate
for children. Then they found there was only one such manufacturer—Phillips—and
it can only supply 100 AEDs per week.
young children’s lives are concerned, we have to throw cost-benefit
analysis out the window,” Councilman James Oddo said. “What is
the sense of having laws on the books if they can be simply disregarded?
It’s time to wake up, New York City. It will happen here again.
After today, it is my hope that we will be prepared.” #
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