WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — A local mother is hoping newly proposed legislation by two district councilmembers will help make schools safer for her daughter and other children suffering from epilepsy.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Mollie Ellis, referring to the Seizure Safe Amendment Act of 2023.
Ellis’s eight-year-old daughter Ava was diagnosed with epilepsy last year. She said headaches can lead to migraines, which trigger her seizures. Ibuprofen can be used to prevent the seizures but Ellis said a handful of times over the last few years, school nurses refused Ava the medication.
“She’s been told you’re faking it, told you don’t really have a headache,” said Ellis.
So the mother—who now teaches at Brent Elementary School where Ava attends—took matters into her own hands.
She said she got training and became seizure first aid certified. Then, she trained her colleagues.
“There were more than 40 teachers at this school who volunteered to do this training and multiple people said that they feel a lot more prepared,” Ellis said. “The numbers of epilepsy and seizures is staggering,” she said.
Ellis is now hopeful teachers in all DC Public Schools (DCPS) will go through the same training.
“When you know better, you do better,” she said.
Thursday, councilmembers Charles Allen and Robert White introduced Seizure Safe Amendment Act of 2023. Under the proposed bill, teachers and administrators with DCPS will be required to have training in seizure recognition, administering emergency seizure medication and ensuring students have individualized seizure action plans.
“Most of us don’t know how to respond, time is of the essence, responding appropriately is critically,” said White. “We have to make sure there is a plan in place, schools can administer medicine when appropriate.”
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, one in 26 Americans will be diagnosed with epilepsy during their lifetime. Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes unprovoked seizures.
Ellis said the legislation, if enacted, could be game changing—even lifesaving—for kids like Ava.
“Five years from now I picture Ava in middle school surrounded by people who are willing and ready to keep her safe,” she said.