(KLTV) - A law in Texas requiring public school employees to be trained in seizure recognition and response inspired a New Jersey family to press state lawmakers to pass similar legislation.
Sam’s Law was named after Kilgore student Samantha “Sam” Watkins, who died in Dec. 2016 after having a seizure. After her death, Sam’s mother, Barbara, rallied for change in Texas public schools, leading to the passage of Sam’s Law in June 2019.
Around the same time Sam’s Law was being discussed in the Texas legislature, Paul St. Pierre, 12, of New Jersey, was diagnosed with epilepsy. His mother, Colleen Quinn, began looking for information on his condition and read about Sam’s Law.
Empowered by Barbara Watkins’ journey in honor of her daughter, Quinn took a similar pitch to the New Jersey legislature.
“Initially it was a pretty devastating diagnosis and he was pretty upset and sad,” Quinn told KLTV in Sept. 2019. “Now, he’s taken what is a pretty tragic situation and turned it around and he seems very empowered by this. He continues to talk about how he’s going to help 12,000 kids in the state of New Jersey, and I’m very proud of him...”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed S4141, also known as “Paul’s Law”, into law on Thursday.
“Every student deserves to learn and thrive in their educational environment, without worrying about their safety,” said Murphy. “Paul’s Law will ensure that the safety of children with seizure disorders is a priority in our schools. I thank Paul and his family for bringing attention to this issue that affects so many parents and children across our state.”
Shari Dudo, the driving force behind Sam’s Law, has been helping Colleen and Paul along the way and was just as excited for the bill’s passing.
“I’m very thankful for representative Clardy’s vision of this becoming nationwide,” said Dudo. “When this first started I was just concerned with Texas but then of course to ensure all children in America are safe, was very important.”
New Jersey is now the fifth state to enact seizure smart school legislation.
“Sam’s Law nationwide is becoming a reality and Sam’s lifesaving legacy continues because there are 12,000 children in New Jersey that have seizures and epilepsy,” said Dudo. “They will be safer in school because of this.”
Paul said he’s looking forward to the security the new bill will add for him and the other children in his state who suffer from seizures. “I feel safer in school because teachers will know what to do.”
Quinn said she’s hoping the other 45 states create similar laws to ensure the safety of their children.
“The Lyndsey Crunk Act actually started in Kentucky and then Sam’s Law started in Texas, and here it’s Paul’s Law,” said Quinn. “I don’t think it’s so important what we call it, I think what’s important is we have 45 states to go to get seizure smart schools across the country, for all these kids.”