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School bus drivers in Tennessee will now be required to be CPR certified

Governor Bill Lee signed the Heart to Heart Act into law on Monday.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Its been nearly 14 years since Rhonda Harrill lost her 13-year-old son, Tanner Lee Jameson to a sudden cardiac arrest.

It was a young death that shook Blount County. It happened during a summer basketball game at Eagleton Middle School on June 26. Jameson died before paramedics arrived to help and the school did not have an automated external defibrillator or AED handy. Jameson's mother believes this technology could have saved his life.

"What God chose him? I don't know," Harrill said. "But, I know that I would be the one to fight that battle for him. And I will always continue to fight that battle."

Harrill has worked for nearly a decade to change legislation that would require AEDs in all Tennessee schools. She found success when those laws were passed in 2019. 

But, she didn't stop there.

Over the course of the past few years, Harrill worked alongside Representative Bob Ramsey to write another new bill.

She wanted to see all school bus drivers in Tennessee have CPR certifications, and have some training in how to administer AEDs.

Governor Lee signed the bill into law on Monday. The legislation is called the Heart to Heart Act.

"Now, they'll go when the teachers go annually, do it, and be done. They don't have to pay a dime," Harrill said. 

CPR Choice is one of the companies that helps people obtain CPR Certification. Mary Fair is an instructor with the organization, she said it only requires one class.

"It usually takes an afternoon or morning time, which makes it easily accessible for people who have busy jobs that can't always do the nine to five courses," Fair said.

She went through some of the exercises people learn in the course, such as compressing 120 times every minute and how to breathe effectively.

"The biggest thing is to identify and then to be able to act on the skills that you learn here," Fair said.

Although all bus drivers will now be required to take the course and earn their certification, Harrill hopes they won't have to use it.

"My hope is that a bus driver never has to use it. That's my main goal," Harrill said. "But, if a situation occurs, and it they do have to use it, they can save that child, or at least they make an honest attempt to save that child."