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Public School Systems Should Offer Swimming Lessons to Students

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Every summer, too many children drown in backyard pools, koi ponds or other small bodies of water. Swimming emergencies happen fast, often silently, and can have fatal outcomes if no one is there to intervene.

But if swimming is so important, why don’t more schools make swim lessons part of their physical education programs?

Government Mandates versus Public Freedom

Americans sometimes skirt a fine line between what some might call “government intrusion”  and the public’s freedom of choice. There are many government-mandated programs in the United States, ranging from public education and drivers’ education to emergency management agencies and transportation rules and regulations.

There are even local ordinances about homeowners’ backyard swimming pools. But there are no laws requiring adults – or children – to know how to swim.

Most towns and cities have their own parks and recreation departments. Often, these departments will offer swimming lessons for a reasonable price to local residents. YMCAs and other community recreation centers also offer children and adults the opportunity to take swimming lessons.

Logistics of Adding Swimming Lessons to Schools

Many U.S. public schools do not have a swimming pool. If they did, they would need to abide by appropriate safety measures, including lifeguards and staff trained in teaching swimming.

Managing a pool also requires monitoring the pool's chemicals and maintaining the system. Overall, it is expensive to maintain a school’s swimming pool.

School Districts Need Swimming Classes to Reduce Life-Threatening Emergencies

There are many subjects that students need to be taught. However, budgetary constraints demand that school boards make choices in their curricula and cut programs at times.

As a result, music and art are among the disciplines that many school districts have eliminated. For example, music and art classes are no longer offered in Detroit, Michigan.

But where safety is concerned, there are certain disciplines that children need to know. Knowing how to swim is one of them.

If school districts were required by law to teach swimming in their K-12 curricula, we could reduce the number of swimming emergencies. A swimming program incorporated into each school district might prove to be another way for local governments to mitigate these emergencies before they happen.

Photo credit: GJ Cosker

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.