What States Require CPR Certification for High School Graduation?

One more lap around the track, high schoolers. This one is for an extra requirement: CPR training.

Our country as a whole is beginning to realize the importance of students receiving CPR training before they graduate. The number of states that require it has steadily increased over the last few decades.  Soon even more states plan to implement CPR training into their high school curriculum. In 2015, there were a little over 20 states that required students to have CPR training. In 2016, that number jumped to 32. Now, in 2017, that number has risen to over 40. In the next few years, that number will increase to about 43 states. We expect this to eventually reach all 50 states. The list is long (and ever-growing). Get comfortable folks.

First, let’s begin with Alabama. Not because we’re doing this in alphabetical order, but because it was the first state to implement mandatory CPR training. You may have guessed it, but you’re most likely off by a few years–maybe even a few decades. The law was enacted in 1984 –right along with the rise of popular shows like Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones.

Current states with mandatory/recommended CPR training:

  1. Alabama: Effective in 1984
  2. Arizona: Said to be active in 2019, but does not require schools to provide training.
  3. Arkansas: Approved on April 8, 2013, and put into effect for the 2014-15 school year.
  4. California: To take effect for the 2018-19 school year.
  5. Colorado: Signed on May 16, 2014
  6. Connecticut: Signed on June 23, 2015
  7. Delaware: Said to be implemented no later than the 2015-16 year, but was valid for the  2014-15 school year.
  8. District of Columbia: Registered on August 18, 2016.
  9. Georgia: Valid for the 2013-14 term
  10. Idaho: Active for the 2015-16 year
  11. Illinois: Signed on June 5, 2014, and was active by July 1, 2014, before the start of the 2014-15 term.
  12. Indiana: Signed on March 31, 2014
  13. Iowa: Effective in 2008
  14. Kentucky: Signed on April 9, 2016
  15. Louisiana: Signed on June 6, 2014, and valid for the 2014-15 term.
  16. Maine: Accepted on June 4, 2015
  17. Maryland: Signed on April 14, 2014, and put into effect for the 2014-15 school year
  18. Michigan: Signed on December 28, 2016
  19. Minnesota: Signed on April 23, 2012, and put into effect in the 2014-15 term.
  20. Mississippi: Signed March 31, 2014, and put into effect in 2014.
  21. Missouri: Active for the 2017-2018 school year.
  22. Montana: Signed on April 13, 2017, and will take effect in 2018.
  23. Nevada: Signed on June 5, 2013, and will be effective on July 1, 2017.
  24. New Jersey: Accepted on August 20, 2014.
  25. New Mexico: Signed on March 2, 2016, and will be initiated for the 2017-18 term.
  26. New York: Approved on October 7, 2015.
    • New York state law required public high school seniors to master CPR before graduating in 2015. Two weeks after learning it, Bronx student Anthony Compres was able to put what he learned to practice just minutes away from where he learned it when he found a resident who had just collapsed on the ground from a sudden cardiac arrest

27. North Carolina: Signed on July 25, 2012
28. North Dakota: Accepted on April 18, 2013, with available funding for state CPR training, but is not mandatory.
29. Ohio: Operative for the 2017-18 school year
30. Oklahoma: Signed on May 16, 2014
31. Rhode Island: Approved on June 24, 2013
32. South Carolina: To take effect in 2018
33. South Dakota: Approved on March 10, 2017, but recommended and not required to graduate.
34. Tennessee: Signed on March 13, 2012
35. Texas: Signed on June 14, 2013
36. Utah: Active for the 2014-15 school year
37. Vermont: Approved on May 16, 2012
38. Virginia: Approved on  March 18, 2013
39. Washington: Authorized on May 8, 2013, and was active by July 28, 2013.
40. West Virginia: Approved on February 24, 2015
41. Wisconsin: Signed May 10, 2010, and became active during the 2011-12 term.As for the rest?

As of 2017, bills have been introduced to state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Hawaii.

However, there has been no news for these states:

  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • Wyoming

Although a lot of these states require CPR training for high schoolers to graduate, many U.S  schools don’t teach it. In a 2016 survey sent out to schools in 32 states that require CPR training for graduating high school seniors, only slightly over 400 eligible high schools out of over 25,000 provided feedback. Of the respondents, only 77 percent stated that they did make CPR training widely available to their students. However, a lot of states have recently passed laws to make CPR training a graduation requirement and have devised programs to respond to new regulations.

These programs also raise the question of how training is instructed due to variations in how CPR training is directed in different states.  Some schools provide training during school hours such as during health education classes. Some use certified coaches, while others use non-certified coaches.

Funnily enough, the survey also recorded that not every school provided hands-on training. You read that correctly. Four percent of students were taught (yes, taught) to do CPR without actually getting hands-on practice. In our opinion, that barely counts as CPR training. You can read instruction manuals on a lot of things, but saving someone’s life should not be one of them.

Many states report that money is the primary issue preventing them from providing the best CPR training. The cost of equipment and instructors is something that school districts can struggle to afford. Dr. Lorrel Brown of the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky describes the dilemma in further detail: “The majority of states do not provide funding for CPR training, and therefore individual districts and schools are left to implement the requirement in their local context.” Although some states are not required, they still take it upon themselves to provide some form of instruction.

Although there may be some inconsistency with district and school level CPR training programs, there is also a lot of variance at the state level. Better funding and instruction for programs across any range can improve the consistency and quality of CPR training programs. They can also make it easier for schools that are poorly funded to pass laws that help support better health education.

“By requiring high school students to receive training before graduation, we are creating a group of potential lifesavers each year,” says Dr. Brown, who is also the associate director of the Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship Program at the University of Louisville. We hope that every state not only requires CPR training for its graduating seniors, but also creates comprehensive and consistent hands-on training (and not instruction manuals) for its future heroes.


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