Tyler Hill’s Sunshine Bill is named after a Mound teenager who died while studying abroad in 2007.
A wrongful death lawsuit revealed there were steps Hill’s study abroad program and instructors could have taken that would have prevented his death.
As of right now, information about illnesses, deaths and accidents does not have to be reported by any study abroad program. This bill would be the first in the country to change that.
“We can’t afford to lose them. One is too many,” said Tyler’s mother Sheryl Hill.
Tyler had just turned 16 when he left on a study abroad trip to Japan. That was the last time Sheryl and her husband, Allen, hugged their son.
“They found him collapsed and his heart stopped on arrival at the hospital,” said Sheryl.
Tyler had fallen ill after climbing Mt. Fuji on the trip. Witness testimony revealed the high school student had complained of dehydration and had been vomiting for hours but was never taken to the doctor to be checked out.
Two years after Tyler’s unexpected death, his study abroad organization, People to People Ambassador’s Group, issued an apology stating, “There are steps that all of the leaders should have taken that could have prevented Tyler’s death.”
However, today, you won’t find the apology, or any record of teens like Tyler who suffered other health or safety complications, anywhere on the study abroad company’s website.
“I was very surprised that there are no laws here in Minnesota, or across the United States, that protect our students when they go abroad to study,” said Rep. Yvonne Selcer.
She, along with Sen. Terri Bonoff, are writing the first law of its kind that would require study abroad programs to track and publish all illnesses, accidents and deaths that happen while K-12 students, like Tyler, are overseas.
“As our younger students are encouraged to spread their wings and have these wonderful experiences abroad, it’s our obligation to do everything we can to make sure they land back safely here with their families,” said Rep. Selcer.
Even after all they’ve been through, the Hills are still encouraging their youngest son, Alec, to study abroad.
“We’re very committed to cultural exchange and travel and having kids have these experiences,” said Allen Hill. “We just want them to be able to do it safely.”
“I want you to come back better, not broken,” said Sheryl.
Rep. Selcer plans to introduce the bill on Thursday, March 5.
The Department of Education will track the numbers and ensure the information is easily accessible to parents researching study abroad programs so they can make the best educated choice.