Student severely injured falling from starting block in high school swimming pool

Howard v. Council of Baltimore, et al


On April 21, 2004, Aaron Howard, along with other classmates, were participating in a physical education class in the Baltimore City College swimming pool. While the teacher was working with some of the students at the shallow end of the pool, Aaron, along with other students, were engaged in activities in the deep end of the pool.

Aaron climbed onto an unprotected starting block and when he left the starting block both of his feet and ankles got caught up in an uncovered filtering mechanism at the gutter edge of the pool resulting in serious and permanent injuries to his legs, ankles, feet and toes.

Upon review of the case files, the Aquatic Experts opinions were as follows:

01. No lifeguard on duty. The teacher, therefore, had to serve as both an instructor and lifeguard simultaneously with groups of students participating in the shallow end and deep ends of the pool.

02. Swimming activities were allowed in the swimming pool, even though there were known physical hazards; namely the unprotected starting blocks, the missing grates in the skimmer, and the exposed screws under the starting blocks.

03. No emergency telephone was maintained within the swimming pool area.

04. No trauma kit was maintained in the pool area – just basic first aid supplies. The teacher had to attempt to control bleeding using a shirt and towel, rather than trauma dressings.

05. No Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) were in place. The Athletic Director had to be located and contacted before 911 could be called.

06. No Emergency Response Plans (ERPs) were in place. The lack of EMS equipment, lack of telephone, and lack of an emergency communication system were examples.

07. Diving was allowed off the starting blocks without supervision, even though starting blocks should only be used by trained divers under supervision of a trained coach.

08. No surveillance protocols were in place to be used by the teacher.

09. No threat assessment was conducted of the facility prior to use.

10. No rules and regulations in place pertaining to the use of the starting blocks by untrained swimmers and divers.

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