A 15-year-old student who drowned on a school-run camping trip this summer had not passed a required swim test, the Toronto District School Board said Wednesday, as it apologized to the teen’s family.
The board’s director of education, John Malloy, said that of the 32 students who went on the multi-day canoe trip to Algonquin Park in July, 15 had failed the swim test. There was no documentation for two of the students, he said.
Malloy said all students on the trip were required to pass a swim test set out by the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association, which included a rolling entry into deep water, treading water for a minute and a 50-metre continuous swim.
Jeremiah Perry disappeared under the water after going for an evening swim with other students. His body was found a day later by search and rescue divers.
“I’m deeply troubled by these findings, that such a critical safety requirement in our procedures appears not to have been followed,” said Malloy.
“On behalf of the TDSB, I offer our most sincere apology and regret. I also want to apologize to the families of the other students who went on the trip, even though they did not pass the swim test.”
“The information that we have is the students did not pass the test and should not have been on the trip,” Malloy said.
Two teachers who were on the trip have been placed on home assignment as a result of the incident, he added.
New procedures have already been put in place, according to Malloy, who said that school principals will now have to see a list of students who passed or failed a required swim test before the trip takes place, and that parents will be notified if their child passed or failed the test.
“I know that Jeremiah’s family wants us to take steps to ensure that this will never happen again,” said Malloy.
He said that there will be a third-party review of all TDSB excursions that, like a canoe trip, are classified as ‘high care’ activities.
Perry’s parents could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but at the time of the incident, his father, Joshua Anderson, said the he had expected the school would keep Jeremiah and his brother, who was also on the trip, safe.
“That was the least on our minds thinking about the safety because we know the school is supposed to have proper supervision, proper protocol, everything in place,” he told a Toronto TV station.
Malloy said that an internal investigation is currently taking place to better understand how this incident could have happened. He said that the investigation is still ongoing because some members involved, including the two teachers on the trip, have “exercised their legal right not to speak” at the advice of their legal council.
He added that the TDSB has scrutinized every trip scheduled to take place before Sept. 5, and confirmed that there are no similar issues with any of those trips.