Stella Thornton SB80

Carson High Youth Legislator Stella Thornton Presents Senate Bill 80, Advocating for Head Injury, Concussion Legislation
Posted on 03/16/2023
This is the image for the news article titled Carson High Youth Legislator Stella Thornton Presents Senate Bill 80, Advocating for Head Injury, Concussion Legislation

Youth Legislator Stella Thornton, 18-year-old senior at Carson High School, on behalf of the Nevada Youth Legislature (NYL), took time yesterday afternoon to present and champion Senate Bill 80 (SB80) to the Nevada Senate Committee on Education. She was introduced by Patrick Donn Dimasin, chair of the Nevada Youth Legislature, and supported by Nicholas Murray, Ph.D., with the Neuromechanics Laboratory at the University of Nevada Reno throughout the hearing.

Thornton first proposed the education measure, which the NYL selected as their bill to be introduced during the 82nd Session of the Nevada Legislature. In August 2022, youth legislators participated in a comprehensive midterm training on Bill Draft Request (BDR) development. They learned about drafting language, germaneness, fiscal impacts and more. Prior to the September 21 meeting, 19 youth legislators submitted individual ideas for the NYL’s one statutorily provided bill. During that meeting, each youth legislator presented their proposal and answered questions posed by their NYL colleagues.

During a vote at the end of the presentations, the NYL narrowed choices. The top seven BDR proposals were presented in more depth and discussed by the youth legislators at their October 20 meeting. They then narrowed the seven proposals to the top two BDR proposals for further consideration at their November meeting, which included full legislative hearings with expert witnesses for each measure. After comprehensive testimonies and careful Q&A with these witnesses, the NYL selected the concussion protocols BDR, proposed by Youth Legislator Thornton. SB80 was introduced in the Senate February 6, 2023.”

In her address Wednesday, March 15, Thornton affirmed that SB80 will provide clear guidelines and procedures for managing a student's traumatic brain injury (TBI) or concussion. In adopting Return to Learn and amending existing Return to Play policies, SB80 will provide a framework for students who have suffered head injuries to receive the care and support they need to return to school and other activities.

The passage of SB80 will also prioritize Nevada’s students’ health and well-being and help ensure students have a smoother transition back into school, she continued. Nevada’s Return to Play policies were first enacted with the passage of AB 455 in 2011.

During the hearing, it was mentioned Return to Play policies ensure that student-athletes who have suffered a concussion or a head injury can safely return to sports activities; however, there is no statute to help regular students (non-athletes) “Return to Learn.” These new policies will focus on providing students who have suffered a concussion or other head injury the pathway to return to academic activities such as attending classes, completing coursework and taking tests.

Having personally suffered a TBI during an equestrian accident during her junior year of high school, Thornton said she suffered a second concussion four weeks later in an accident at home. Her return to school was challenging, as the variety of accommodations a student with a concussion or brain injury needs to return to class was not as standard as they could be with the adoption of SB80.

At the conclusion of the meeting several individuals provided support of Thornton and SB80 by testifying in favor of the bill including the following in the order they appeared.

  • Leanne Mcallister, executive director of the Nevada Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Adam Hunsaker, athletic trainer and science teacher at Carson High
  • Denny French, Carson City citizen
  • Mary Pierzynski, representing the Nevada Association of School Superintendents
  • Frank Sakelarios, Carson High School teacher and former athletic trainer
  • Andrew Feuling, superintendent for the Carson City School District
  • Alivia Aschenbach, Carson High senior and president of HOSA (future health professionals)

Additionally, letters of support were provided in the meeting’s agenda packet including the following (alphabetically by last name).

  • Ananda Campbell, Carson High School library media specialist
  • Bridget Gordon-Johnson, Carson High School counselor
  • Alisa Kuniya, Carson High School Art teacher
  • Benjamin Spence, Carson High School Social Studies teacher

Next steps: Following this hearing by the Nevada Senate Committee on Education, SB80 will be put on a calendar to be voted on, debated, amended or tabled. If the bill is tabled or there is no action by the committee before the passage deadline, the bill may or may not come back for a vote. If it does not come back for a vote, the bill “dies.” If the committee casts a vote on the bill, it can be defeated or advanced to be presented on the Nevada State Senate floor.

NYL , which was created in 2007 (Senate Bill 247), is a two-year program that gives high school students an opportunity to learn about representative government and take an active role in the legislative process. The NYL provides a distinctive opportunity for Nevada youth to have a powerful voice in representative government and policy making. This includes presenting one bill per term to the Nevada Legislature on an issue important to Nevada youth. Each of Nevada’s 21 Senators appoints a Youth Legislator to represent his or her Senate District. Nevada high school freshman, sophomores and juniors can apply to become a Nevada Youth Legislator until March 31, 2023. The application is open is on the Nevada Youth Legislature webpage.

Thornton serves as Vice President of the National Honor Society chapter at Carson High School. She continues to ride and work with horses and will attend the University of Nevada, Reno this fall.