Monday, January 16, 2012

Freshman Drowns in East Hartford High School Pool during Gym Class

Jan 2012: A 15-year-old freshman student, Marcum Asiamah, drowned during a high school gym class at East Hartford High School. His family said he was excited to learn to swim during his gym class. Adults were present when students saw Marcum at the bottom of the pool. The teacher jumped in and performed CPR until first responders arrived. The teen was rushed to Hartford Hospital but did not survive and was pronounced dead at Hartford Hospital. the autopsy determined he was the victim of an accidental drowning.
Word of the accident spread quickly and many parents for calling their children to make sure they were safe. "A lot of the kids were freaked out and they were starting rumors about it," student Tracy Holmes said. "How do you let that happen?" said Solese Natta, another parent at the school. School Superintendent Mark Zito says the drowning remains under investigation. News 8 even called the CT State Department of Education to ask what the rules are for school's with pools. The representative reached said “They said they will look into this.” Manchester School Superintendent Mark Zito said in a prepared statement:
"Today there was a tragic event at East Hartford High School where a student drowned. The incident is under investigation and we have no findings that we can share with you at this time.  Student safety is of paramount concern and the school district will continue to work with the East Hartford Police Department to investigate this incident.  The pool will remain closed pending this investigation. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family and friends of the student involved in this incident.  The school district is planning to provide grief counseling and support for students, faculty, and staff. The details of that support will be made available shortly."

Students who were at the pool when the incident happened were sent home early. Some other parents elected to pick their children up from school early due to the incident. Superintendent Mark Zito, visited the family's home to offer condolences and a referral to a therapist to help them cope with their loss. Grief counselors were be available for students, faculty and staff at school the next day. A vigil was held two days later on a friday night at 5:30 p.m. so students can come together to remember this young student. At the candlelight vigil, Joshua Dillon, president of the East Hartford High School student council, asked students to speak, and a few accepted, offering prayers and condolences to the family.

Points for Discussion: 
  • Don't wait for a tragedy to occur to determine what are the best safety practices for your facilities, and if there are associated risks, how you can mitigate them to an acceptable level.
  • A swimming pool in your school offers unique opportunities for your students and staff as well as unique risks (drowning, head injuries due to diving, chlorine chemicals, etc.).
  • Are there state department of education guidance or guidelines for pools at educational institutions, if not, why not?
  • Some safety procedures to discuss:
    • In military swim training or waterborne activities, those individuals who are non-swimmers and poor swimmers are identified and handled differently from those who can swim. 
    • Establishing a supervised peer buddy system between students can aid in a student not wandering off or doing their own thing. This is an added layer to existing supervision and increasing student's level of awareness of looking out for each other. 
  • The knee-jerk reaction is to close the pool indefinitely. While this is safest thing to do from a litigious standpoint, more good can be done by teaching children to swim and float to prevent further drownings.   
  • Comment on School Leadership: While not knowing the results of the drowning investigation, I applaud the superintendent actually visiting the family to offer his condolences and support to them. This type of personalized leadership is often unrecognized by people in educational leadership positions due to a lack of leadership education and training, and a fear of litigation.

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