Teen who died in Algonquin Park during TDSB trip didn’t pass swim test

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Jeremiah Perry, 15, did not pass a swim test prior to attending a Toronto District School Board school trip to Algonquin Park in early July, says the board.

TDSB protocol requires that students pass a swim test in order to go on the trip.

According to the board, of the 30 students on the trip who took the swim test, 15 failed.

“No further swim tests or instruction was provided or offered” after the initial test, the board said.

John Malloy, the director of education for the country’s largest school board, said he is “deeply troubled by these findings and that such a critical safety requirement in our procedures appears not to have been followed.”

He added that when he shared the news with Jeremiah’s family, he offered a “sincere apology and regret.”

The school board notes that moving forward, several new measures will be put in place before future field trips. Those include:

  • Trips will only be approved only after the principal sees and reviews documentation of any tests taken.
  • All students participating in the swim test and their parents will be given results of the test.

Two teachers would have signed off on the test results, according to the school board. They are currently on home assignment and not speaking with investigators.

John Malloy, TDSB

John Malloy, director of education for the TDSB, says the board has retained a ‘highly experienced and respected investigation firm’ to review the incident. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

The TDSB also promised to conduct a third-party review of its excursion procedures, specifically with regards to “high-care” activities, which include canoe trips.

Trip was part of summer-school curriculum

Jeremiah was one of 33 students from C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute and Westview Centennial Secondary School who were participating in the week-long outdoor education excursion as part of the summer-school curriculum. Jeremiah’s 17-year-old brother was also on the trip.

The students were three days into their canoe trip northeast of Toronto when Jeremiah slipped under the water while swimming in Big Trout Lake. When he didn’t resurface, police were called.

In the days after the incident, the TDSB said all students are required to pass a swim test before going on such trips, but could not say where and when the tests took place.

“One of the standard swim tests is conducted in the pool. It would involve water safety, laps, underwater endurance,” said Shari Schwartz-Maltz, a spokesperson for the TDSB. She said for canoe excursions, most, if not all, students are required to take an outdoor swim test in a lake.

Guidelines for canoe trips

According to Malloy, TDSB procedures require that students pass the Canoe Tripping Swim Test, as set out by the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (OPHEA) guidelines.

OPHEA works with school boards to establish safety guidelines for excursions, though in July, a spokesperson told CBC Toronto it was not involved in designing the TDSB’s summer program.

In OPHEA’s guidelines for canoe trips, the swim test includes:

  • Rolling entry (backward or forward) into deep water at a depth of at least of 2.75 metres.
  • Treading water for one minute.
  • Swimming 50 metres continuously.

According to OPHEA’s recommendations, the swim test must be administered by a certified instructor or lifeguard.

The TDSB noted that its investigation is not yet complete, and the board will continue to provide updates to the Perry family and the public.

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Teen who died in Algonquin Park during TDSB trip didn’t pass swim test

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