FLORIDA — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of death in children aged 1-4. A new Florida law, though, is aiming to change that.
What You Need To Know
- The CDC reports that drowning is the leading cause of death for children aged 1-4
- Florida's "Every Child a Swimmer" law will take effect for the 2022-2023 school year to help combat that statistic
- Schools will be required to ask parents if their child has taken swim lessons and provide safety and educational materials if they say no
The “Every Child a Swimmer” law, which takes effect for the 2022-2023 school year, requires Florida public schools to ask parents if their child has taken swim lessons.
If the answer is no, schools are required to provide swim safety and education materials.
With 96 reports across the state, the Florida Department of Children and Families reports that child drowning deaths hit a record high in Florida for the year 2021.
Data from the Red Cross, though, shows that swim lessons can reduce the risk of a child drowning by close to 88%.
Abby Thompson, an instructor at Goldfish Swim School in Winter Park, said she is committed to doing her part in preventing children from becoming part of a troubling statistic.
While doing it, however, she makes sure to sprinkle in lots of fun for her kids.
She loves anything outdoors — swimming, biking, hiking, you name it — but she loves working with kids the most and her smile says it all.
“I love swimming, I love water safety — drowning prevention has always been a passion for me, growing up around the water," she said. "And with the kids, I think that, too, just marries the two passions beautifully."
Thompson moved to Florida last year but calls Wisconsin and Minnesota home.
In fact, that’s where she starting teaching with Goldfish swim school.
"It was actually just proximity," she said. "They were in the neighborhood that I lived in, and I applied for the job because I love kids and I always loved swimming, and then I just never left."
By doing what she loves, she’s making a splash in more ways than one.
Even though she’s not a mom, Thompson said she knows just how important it is to help families face their fears of drowning.
"Knowing how much I love (these kids), and about how much I get attached to them, it just brings me so much peace of mind and comfort knowing their parents can rest easy, too," she said.
She has even more peace of mind now, knowing that outside the pool lanes, there’s a new law requiring Florida public schools to provide swim safety education materials for families.
The owner of the swim school, Gina Jacobs Thomas, offered some advice for families who are not currently able to enroll their child in swim lessons.
She said a big thing to keep in mind is that drowning can happen in many places around your house, even if you don’t have a pool.
“Be aware of the water safety hazards that are around your home," she said. "So, making sure that any water toys, water tables, bathtubs, buckets, anything’s drained after use — children can die in as little as 2 inches of water.”
Supervision is the No. 1 way to prevent child drowning, Jacobs Thomas said.
For anyone with a pool, Jacobs Thomas suggested they invest in fencing to separate the house from the pool.
She also recommended clearing any rafts or toys from the pool that would tempt a child to go toward the water unsupervised.