Possible Drowning in St. Louis Park Focuses Attention on School Pool Safety

Updated: 02/28/2014 7:27 PM KSTP.com By: Stephen Tellier

A 12-year-old boy is pulled from a middle school pool, unconscious and unresponsive. Thursday's terrible incident at St. Louis Park Middle School has parents praying for the child's recovery, and has brought attention to safety at school pools.

At last check, the 7th grader was still in the hospital. But no updates on his condition were released on Friday.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has learned incidents like this are extremely rare in Minnesota.

"It just hurt my heart as a parent. You don't know what to do," said Mary Kelly, the mother of a 6th grader at the middle school.

The boy was part of a gym class of 28 students, swimming in the school pool. The precise details remain unclear. But at the end of the class, a teacher pulled the boy from the pool. He was unresponsive and was not breathing. The teacher immediately began CPR. First responders continued CPR as the 7th grader was rushed to the hospital.

"All we can do is really hope that he does pull through because, I mean, it is traumatic situation," Kelly said.

District officials said the teacher was a certified water safety instructor, not a lifeguard. But pools inside schools are regulated just like other public pools. They're not required to have a lifeguard, as long as they have a warning sign posted, and an adult present when children are swimming.

"As long as they have someone who knows CPR and can obviously swim and know how to save a child, that level of comfort is still there, even without a lifeguard per se," Kelly said.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS obtained numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health, which show that over the past four years there have been 66 emergency calls from public pools in Minnesota. Only four were from pools inside schools, and none of those school calls were for drowning.

"It's a tough time for any school or parent when anything happens like that around here," Kelly said.

While they go through similar training, there are some important differences between lifeguards and water safety instructors. The training for such instructors focuses mostly on the ability to teach others how to swim. Lifeguard training is more rigorous in terms of rescue skills and emergency situations.