Near drowning prompts basic water safety course in district

7th-grader Trevonne Allen almost drowned after sinking to bottom of pool last year
Near drowning prompts basic water safety course in district

Nearly 40 Sun Prairie faculty members have taken a basic water safety course in the last six months. The advanced training is part of a new school district policy enacted after a 13-year-old nearly drowned in the high school pool on March 20, 2013.

Seventh-grader Trevonne Allen and 117 others from Patrick Marsh Middle School were at the high school for physical education class. Moments after Allen took off his life jacket he jumped on top of another student, and sank to the bottom of the pool for three minutes and 19 seconds before being rescued by the pool manager. He and the other teachers on duty were alerted by students as to Allen’s condition. They did not see him sink to the bottom of the pool themselves.

A district investigation into the incident led to numerous changes in how the pool will be used. Open records requests from News 3 revealed 38 faculty members have taken a basic water rescue course offered by the American Red Cross, which is now required. All physical education instructors in the district will be required to take that course once every three years.

“The whole point of speaking up and speaking out was to make sure kids are OK in the future,” said Andrea Allen, Trevonne Allen’s mother. “He’s back to himself, thank god. But we want to make sure no other kids and parents have to go through what we went through.”

District administrators will now require that all physical education units that use the swimming pool must “be instructional in nature.” Video from the March 20, 2013 incident showed students pushing each other into the pool and playing games with no teaching going on.

The new four-page policy also requires staff members who are designated as “observers,” to have taken “basic victim recognition instructions.” The district’s investigation into Trevonne Allen’s near-drowning highlighted a lack of training on how to spot a potential swimmer in trouble.

Further, students will now be tested at the start of any unit as to their swimming ability. Trevonne’s parents said he did not have much experience swimming in deep water and should never have been allowed to be in the deep end without a life jacket. All swimmers will be given a wrist band indicating their swimming ability. Any swimmer who removes their life vest will be immediately removed from the water.

Trevonne was allowed to participate in the swim unit despite his parents never filling out a permission form. All parents were notified by email, but administrators acknowledged after the fact they did not have all of the parents’ email addresses on file. Now, no student will be allowed to participate without a signed permission slip.

A lawsuit brought by Trevonne and his mother against the school district was settled late last year for $50,000, the maximum amount allowed under Wisconsin state law.

District Administrator Tim Culver, who said he had not heard from any students, staff or administrators about the policy, declined further comment except to say, “We now have written guidelines that I believe make the pool safer.”