Improving Safety at School Swimming Pools

March 27, 2013

While this year’s session has focused closely on preventing gun violence and developing the next two-year state budget, there are many other important bills currently moving forward in the legislature. This week, I would like to share some information about one of these bills that recently gained unanimous committee support.

As a member of the Public Safety and Security Committee, I have been working with other legislators to improve student safety at school swimming pools. In separate incidents over the past year, two high school students tragically drowned in swimming pools at public schools in Manchester and East Hartford. Since then, legislators have worked toward improving state policy to protect students who take part in aquatic activities.

Each year, we have the responsibility to consider laws that will help make our state a better and safer place for our children to live and learn. During the March 19th committee meeting, House Bill 5113, An Act Concerning Pool Safety at Public Schools was sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration. It would establish a uniform policy regarding school pool safety in order to reduce the loss of life or injury related to swimming at public schools.

First, the bill would require that a swimming coach, instructor or teacher at a school swimming pool must be certified as a lifeguard and water safety instructor by the American Red Cross, the YMCA or another nationally recognized organization that conducts aquatic training programs. They must also be certified in CPR and have completed a course in first aid as well as the use of an automatic external defibrillator.

Next, the legislation specifies that whenever a school swimming pool is used by one or more students for aquatic activities, such as swimming recreation, instruction, lessons, practice or competition, that there must be at least one other person present in addition to the coach or instructor. This additional person would be solely responsible for monitoring the swimming pool for any students who might be in distress. This person will also have to be certified to the same standards as the coach or instructor.

Third, the bill would require boards of education across the state to develop a pool safety plan to ensure the safety of students if they allow students to use the school swimming pool for aquatic activities. The initial report will be due July 1, 2014 and the plan will be reviewed and updated before the start of each school year.

While our efforts cannot always ensure students’ safety, we must take every appropriate precaution to make our schools a safe place to learn and exercise. If passed, the measure would take effect on October 1, 2013 and it now awaits further action by the House of Representatives. If you would like to learn more about the bill, please visit the Public Safety and Security Committee website at