Maryland is considering a bill that would develop a water safety and swimming curriculum for high school-aged students. The bill proposes that the State Board of Education establishes an elective course for public school students in grades 8-12 to teach them the basics of swimming and water safety. Del. Karen Toles, D-Prince George’s, is the main sponsor of HB1105, which has bipartisan support.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 17 and below. In children aged 10-14, Black children drown at 7.6 times the rate that white children do in swimming pools.

“It is a huge issue, particularly in the Black community, that more minority kids drown from not knowing how to swim than any other group of individuals,” said Toles. “I think it’s something that we should look at, which gave me the idea to put something like this forward.”

Toles also noted that many Historically Black Colleges and Universities like Howard and Hampton made sure kids knew how to swim before they could graduate, which she considered when coming up with the bill.

If the bill passes, local boards of education would have to implement the course beginning in the 2025-2026 school year. The idea has the added benefit of possible lifeguarding jobs down the road for students successfully completing the course.

“We start seeing teen boys drowning at higher rates around those grades, so it’s an important and intervention piece,” said Dr. William Ramos, member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council. “Often I think we forget about the older kids, assuming they got something when they were younger, but many don’t.”

Some Maryland public schools already offer some water safety programs to students, but HB1105 targets high-school-aged children. The bill suggests public middle or high schools offering this course partner with a local parks and recreation agency to connect them with the pool and facilities needed to teach it successfully.

“This bill is a step, a huge step in being able to have a solution to this public health crisis,” said Nicholas Askew, head coach and director of Swimming and Diving at Howard University.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/EditorEditor-in-Chief

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply