If approved, a bill in the Minnesota Legislature would become the first law in the nation to require swimming lessons for children in public schools, KARE 11 reports.
The Minnesota House Education Policy Committee on Tuesday will consider H. F. No. 2113.
The legislation, sponsored by two Minneapolis DFL lawmakers, state Rep. Karen Clark and state Sen. Jeff Hayden, would require all public schools to teach swimming, or, if the school doesn't have a pool, basic water safety.
"Throughout the whole state, we have kids who are not learning to swim," Clark told MPR News. "It seems to me so basic that children would get that instruction. We've gone backwards, unfortunately."
Hannah Lieder, board chair of the nonprofit Minneapolis Swims, told KARE 11 that there is a big disparity between white and minority children when it comes to learning how to swim. "It's practical. It's something that every child and every person in this state can use their whole life," she told the station.
Lawmakers are considering the legislation after two school drownings. Frederick Ndereimana, 19, died in March, 18 days after being found face down in the Fargo South High School pool. Abdullahi Charif, 12, was found at the bottom of his St. Louis Park school’s swimming pool following gym class on Feb. 27, when no lifeguard was present.
Nationwide, about a dozen children have drowned while at school over the past few years, and most cases had similarities: Immigrant children who did not know how to swim, with no lifeguard on duty, MPR News reports.
In Detroit, a school instructor charged in the drowning death of an East Detroit High School 14-year-old student at a school pool faces a May 8 court date.