Principals sounded alarm over defibrillators after boy’s death

Dozens of principals with Ottawa’s largest school board flagged potentially serious problems with defibrillators in their schools months after the death of an eight-year-old boy who went into cardiac arrest during recess, CBC News has learned.

Their concerns, including missed inspections, insufficient training and expired or inaccessible devices, are detailed in the results of a board-wide survey obtained by CBC ​through a freedom of information request.

Eight-year-old Griffin Martin’s heart stopped beating while he was playing with friends during recess on the morning of Feb. 24, 2017.

His school, Orleans Wood Elementary, did not have a defibrillator on site. A CBC investigation found it was just one of 78 Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) elementary schools without a defibrillator.

Unlike in other provinces, schools in Ontario are not required by law to have Automated External Defibrillators, also called AEDs.

Family ‘absolutely shattered’

While it’s not known whether quick access to an AED would have saved the boy’s life, his parents launched a campaign to equip all schools with the devices.

​”Our family has been absolutely shattered by this,” said Damien Martin, Griffin’s father. “We have a right to expect higher standards. We send our kids to school 200 days a year with the assumption they’ll be safe.”

On May 1, more than two months after Griffin’s death, the OCDSB sent a survey to the principals of all 151 schools, including high schools, middle schools and elementaries. Its purpose was to “determine the feasibility, including installation needs, and any necessary training” on the devices.

According to the board some principals had requested defibrillators following Griffin Martin’s death, so the survey was also a means of determining which schools had AEDs and which didn’t.

Requests from principals

The survey results showed a total of 69 OCDSB schools had defibrillators, while 82 did not. Sixteen principals of schools without the devices directly appealed for them in their responses to the survey. (Most, but not all of the respondents’ names were redacted from the survey results obtained by CBC.)

“We would like to have one at Manor Park. Our school is used regularly in evenings for adult sports and we are also a polling site for elections and have a high number of elderly people in the school during these times,” wrote the elementary school’s principal.

“Between the two OCDSB Outdoor Education Centres, 25,000 students (not including rentals) will visit these outdoor classrooms this school year,” wrote Kevin Wallace, coordinator of the centres, which were included in the survey. “To ensure student safety, an AED should be installed.”

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