'Seizure Safe Schools' bill introduced by two local teens advances in General Assembly

Jamie and Brie Strong.jpg
Posted at 3:10 PM, Jan 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-30 22:26:57-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - If you want to see change, sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. So, that's exactly what Jamie Van Cleave and Brie Gesick are doing.

"We want to make sure that all kids are safe at school and don't have to go through the same struggles that we've had to go through," said Jamie.

Both girls were diagnosed with epilepsy from a young age. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes sudden seizures.

Now 17 and 13, the teens are advocating for "Seizure Safe Schools" through the Jamie and Brie Strong Act.

"The Jamie and Brie Strong Act will require all school personnel to get seizure first aid training so they know what to do in case of an emergency if a kid has a seizure at school," said Brie.

After an attempt to turn the bill into law in 2020, the girls are back to try again. Jamie said they feel even more inspired in 2021 because, "We kinda already have the buildup; we have the momentum; we know what we're doing and what to change to make it better."

The bill was originally championed by Republican Senator Bill DeSteph, but has grown support within both parties. This year, the bill has sponsors from both parties, including DeSteph and Democratic Senator Dave Marsden, Democratic Delegate Alex Askew, Republican Delegate G. John Avoli and Republication Delegate Amanda Batten.

Jamie said the bill doesn't just protect those students with epilepsy.

"The bill itself is really just an overall [protection for] any type of seizure. Like, any student can have a seizure," she said. "There are over 40 different kinds of seizures, and so [school personnel] knowing how to respond to the most common ones - then there [will be] less injuries, fatalities and stuff like that."

If it passes, the training for school staff in Virginia would all be done virtually. The girls said that just knowing that someone could step in to help would make all the difference.

"A seizure can happen at any time and any place, so sometimes I will get nervous - just hoping that someone will be there that will know what to do," said Brie.