Three classrooms worth of drowned children
By Karen Cohn
Florida’s passage of the “Every Child A Swimmer” law, highlighted in an Aug. 9 story titled “Keiser University plans $8 million aquatics center and Olympic-sized pool,” is welcome news for children and families across the state. It’s a big step to prevent childhood drowning. The bill stresses the importance of parents enrolling their kids in swim lessons. Studies have shown swim lessons reduce childhood drowning by 88% — and are urgently needed in Florida, which leads the country in unintentional drownings for children ages 0-4 and is on pace to hit a 10-year high in child drownings in 2021.
Every year in Florida, enough children under the age of five drown to fill three to four preschool classrooms.
Florida has recorded 70 child drownings this year, as of Aug. 30, surpassing totals for all of 2020 (69) and 2019 (65), according to Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) data. Of those 70 drownings, 63% involved children aged three and under. The data also reveals that Osceola County leads the state with 10 child drownings in 2021 so far, followed by Broward County (8), Polk County (6), Duval County (5) and four each in Miami-Dade and Hernando counties. Palm Beach County has seen one child drowning in 2021, compared to five in 2020.
While “Every Child A Swimmer” doesn’t require or mandate swim lessons, it creates awareness among parents of their responsibility to teach their kids how to swim. The law requires schools to ask parents of entering kindergartners if their child has been taught to swim. If the child cannot swim, schools must provide the parents with materials about water safety education and where they can find local swimming lessons and swim safety courses.
It is my hope that this legislation will help make every Florida child a swimmer and inspire other states to adopt similar laws.