Toronto student who drowned on school trip did not pass swim test, TDSB confirms
A teen who drowned during a school trip to Algonquin Park last month did not pass a mandatory swim test prior to embarking on the trip, the Toronto District School Board has confirmed.
The school board says that of the 32 students who went on the trip, 30 were recorded as taking the swim test. Of those, 15 students did not pass.
Fifteen-year-old Jeremiah Perry was one of those students.
Perry was swimming with classmates in Big Trout Lake on July 4 when he suddenly went under water and did not resurface.
His body was found the next day.
In the days following the tragedy, Malloy said the school board retained a “highly experienced and respected” investigation firm to interview students, staff and volunteers who attended or were involved in planning the camping trip, which was expected to last several days.
Malloy reiterated that, as per the TDSB’s expectations for school trips, each student was required to pass a swim test before being approved for the trip.
The test, a canoe tripping swim test, was held at a third-party facility at a lake. If any student failed the canoe tripping test, Malloy said they were given a second chance and required to complete a series of swimming lessons and one-on-one swim coaching in the C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute pool.
Not only did Perry fail the initial test, Malloy said he was not recorded as having participated in swimming lessons before the trip.
Malloy said those who failed the tests “should not have been” allowed on the trip but, inexplicably, were permitted to go anyway.
“I am deeply troubled by these findings and that such a critical safety requirement in our proecuderes appears not to have been followed,” Malloy said. “In sharing this news with Jeremiah’s family earlier today, I said to them, and I will say public now on behalf of the TDSB, I offer our most sincere apology and regret.”
“I also want to apologize to the families of the other studdents who went on the trip even though they did not pass the required swim test,” he added.”
As a result, two teachers involved in organizing the trip are on home assignment.
Malloy said both have “exercised their legal right” and have declined to speak with investigators at this time.
While the investigation is ongoing, Malloy said that the board has already implemented new measures surrounding the vetting of students and their abilities before going on school trips.
Perry’s family has also urged the TDSB to strengthen their expectations and policies in order to stave off future tragedies.
The new measures include:
- All future trips of this kind will be approved only after the principal of the school sees and reviews documentation showing that only those students who passed the appropriate tests will attend
- All students participating in a pre-trip canoe or swim test will be given the results of the test
- All parents of children taking part in trips that include swimming and/or canoeing will receive their children’s test results prior to the trip
- The TDSB will be conducting a full third-party review of excursion procedures, specifically as it pertains to “high-care” activities such as multi-day canoe trips
“We have clear expectations of what needed to happen. We have now learned that some of those expectations were not followed (and) their children did not pass the test and, in light of that, should not have been on that trip. We will work with those families if they have any further questions about that,” Malloy said.
“Our interest is to be as honest as we possibly can with the information that we have at this moment so that we can do everything that we can – not only for Jeremiah’s family but for our broader community – and to ensure that our process’s allow us to ensure our public that this will never happen again.”
Malloy said that all other TDSB trip scheduled for the days following Perry’s death were scrutinized and reviewed. He said “no issues” were found and therefore none have been cancelled.
“Although this has obviously been a tragic and difficult time for all involved, I do want to reassure TDSB students and parents that the TDSB intends to continue to provide all students access and opportunities for outdoor education,” he said.
“These programs provide students with valuable learning experiences and skills; however, we will not do so at the expense of student safety.”
The two teachers, four volunteers and 33 students, including Perry’s older brother Marrion, returned home soon after he went missing.
Marrion previously told CTV News Toronto that he and his brother did not know how to swim and that they were wearing life jackets during the swim test conducted by the TDSB.
Jeremiah was not wearing a life jacket when he drowned.
The Ontario Provincial Police and the Office of the Chief Coroner have also been investigating Perry’s death.
Malloy said that the school board and investigating bodies will provide more information as it becomes available.
“I think it’s an important message for me to share with our public and community that, as I said, we trust our staff, our staff are professionals and they do great work for kids every day,” he said.
“We have procedures in place to ensure safety and effective programming and anytime that doesn’t happen as it should, it’s exceptionally troubling and very upsetting and it’s tragic... and that’s what we’re dealing with today.”