Since 2020, Texas law has mandated that schools offer students as young as seventh graders lessons in "battlefield trauma care," where children learn how to apply tourniquets and chest seals in class.
"The first (bill) was in light of the shooting at Santa Fe, to provide support to middle- and high-school-age kids ... and to help them feel confident that they could help their friends who might be suffering from a bleeding situation," Barry Haenisch, executive director with the Texas Association of Community Schools, an organization that represents small, mid-sized and rural public school districts in Texas, tells TODAY.com.
Now, lawmakers have introduced a state bill that would expand the classes to include kids as young as third graders.
The bill is sparking controversy as the nation prepares to mark one year since the deadly Robb Elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and after three small children were shot and killed inside a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee.
"I just see third graders as babies," Haenisch says. "I would need somebody (to) show me how they could be composed enough, even if they were well-trained and knew exactly what to do, to carry it (out)."
House Bill 1147, which regulates mandatory "bleeding control stations" in Texas schools, would require districts or charter schools to offer annual "instruction on the use of a bleeding control station."
The bill also outlines what instruments children as young as 8 would learn to use at the stations, including "tourniquets approved for use in battlefield trauma care by the armed forces," chest seals and bleeding-control bandages.
Texas Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, a Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, told CBS News Texas that training could be done in an age-appropriate way.
“Think about the young girl in Uvalde who had the thought of mind to put blood on herself. To, you know, have the shooter think … I’ve been shot. OK, who would have thought someone in that grade level would have thought like that?” asked Gervin-Hawkins.
“If there’s no appetite for doing gun reform, then we’ve got to do something and if we could save one life, then we’ve done at least that,” she added.
Dr. Chethan Sathya, a pediatric trauma surgeon and director of the Center for Gun Violence Prevention at Northwell Health, is skeptical about the bill's effectiveness.
"Younger kids' ability to (apply a tourniquet) is going to be very limited — almost useless," he tells TODAY.com.
"I think for older kids, teenagers and so on, there are opportunities to learn about life-saving maneuvers," he adds. "But just imagine if you're a very young kid, being able to navigate the trauma of seeing your friends being shot and then actually applying a tourniquet. Does that make sense to anybody?"
Sathya says that because many mass shootings are committed by someone armed with an AR-15 style weapon, the wounds left behind — particularly in small children where their vital organs are much closer together — are almost always "mortal."
"The actual ability of a child to save another child's life can be very limited," Sathya says. "It's probably not going to make a dent."
TODAY.com reached out to Gervin-Hawkins and Rep. Ryan Guillen, the bill's co-author, for comment but did not hear back at the time of publication.
The bill is currently pending in committee and no roll call has been made for a vote.
'A misguided strategy'
Gun violence is the leading cause of death for children living in the United States. In Texas, a reported 246 people have been killed in mass shootings since 2013, according to data collected by the Gun Violence Archive.
Sathya says the bill is a "misguided strategy" on behalf of lawmakers.
"It's a sad day in this country when we have to think about passing that type of legislation," he says, "rather than implementing policies and prevention strategies that we know work."
Samuel Gardner, a father and emergency medicine physician in Texas, says he's "pretty politically conservative" and owns guns, but that if Texas officials want to save lives they should pass common sense gun reform.
"(An AR-15) is not the same as a hunting rifle ... the damage it does is different," Gardner tells TODAY.com. "Cars are very heavily regulated. This weapon would be like allowing someone to drive a Formula 1 car on the street."
Gardner's wife, Janet, is not "politically conservative," but says both her and her husband agree that HB 1147 is "absurd."
"I can't imagine any parent being OK with that," Janet Garner, who has lived in Texas for 21 years, tells TODAY.com.
"These kids ... their bodies are blown up. A tourniquet is not going to help," she adds. "What are they going to do, tourniquet a neck? This is ridiculous. Lawmakers have become too comfortable. They need to be uncomfortable."
Texas parents respond to tourniquet, chest seal trainings
Abby Durham, 37, has three children attending Texas public school. She says she "felt sick" when she checked Twitter and saw the proposed bill.
"I started crying. My husband and I have been thinking of moving — I just feel so disheartened," Durham tells TODAY.com. "It feels like there's no fixing the crazy."
Brett Cross, whose 10-year-old Uziyah "Uzi" Garcia was shot and killed inside Robb Elementary along with 18 classmates and two teachers, says he’s “extremely pissed off” to see HB 1147 introduced while Texas House Bill 2744, a bill that would raise the age to purchase semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21 in the state, is still pending in committee.
“You’re pretty much telling a third grader that their life doesn’t matter and that they better do an adult’s job because the adults aren’t going to do it,” Cross, who says Uzi loved Spider-Man and wanted to be a police officer, tells TODAY.com. “They’re wanting third graders to know this because they know that (a school shooting) is going to happen again and they refuse to do anything about it.
“Reactive doesn’t solve the issues,” he adds. “Reactive leads to dead children.”
Susanne Kerns, 50, has lived in Texas for over 11 years and has both a 17-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son in the Texas public school system.
She says her children "won't be opting in" on the "stop the bleeding" trainings.
"Once again, Texas legislators are trying to pass Band-Aid solutions to these problems that they're actually causing. I mean, kids would not need to know how to use tourniquets if there were common sense gun laws in place," Kerns tells TODAY.com. "It's so similar to those stupid DNA kits that the governor was sending the school districts to help recognize a body — they're just pretending the only option is to find ways to deal with the consequences instead of trying to stop there from being a problem in the first place."
'They can't know the names of their body parts, but can do chest compressions?'
Kerns says she also takes issue with districts being mandated to provide "stop the bleeding training," but Texas students not always having access to a comprehensive sex education.
Texas school districts are not mandated to offer sex-ed courses. Some districts have suspended their "human sexuality units" for entire school years, as reported by the local paper The Dallas Morning News. If courses are offered, parents must provide their written consent.
"People who fight against sex ed are always saying 'let kids be kids,' but just the idea of making kids have to think about tourniquets as their classmates bleed out — what could be less letting 'kids be kids' and respecting the innocence of children?" Kerns says.
"They can't know the names of their body parts, but they can do chest compressions?" she adds. "It's ridiculous."
"It’s frustrating that the guns are more important than all of our children," Durham says of the state prioritizing battlefield trauma care training. "The thought of a baby — a third grader — having to dress a tourniquet? I can’t wrap my head around that. It’s a step too far. We’re in a lot of trouble right now."
This article was originally published on TODAY.com