After boy’s death, what are Ga. regulations on swim lessons?

Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 7:07 PM EDT
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WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - District Attorney Jared Williams is still looking into potential charges in the Burke County 4-year-old Izzy Scott’s drowning.

One question we had was how many students were in Scott’s class the day he drowned at his swim lesson.

Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams says 10 children including Scott were there.

The sheriff tells us part of the reason they did not and could not press charges was that Georgia does not have any regulations on ratios of students and teachers for private swim lessons.

We’re also told Georgia does not even have a law requiring someone to have any certifications to teach those lessons either.

We spoke with both Red Cross and local YMCAs to see what safety measures they take with swim lessons, despite not having to.

Many have questions about regulations for instructors and the number of kids allowed for private swim classes after the incident with Scott.

The simple answer is there is none.

The YMCA says they have four-to-eight students with a lifeguard and instructor ratio. The Red Cross says there is one-to-six with a lifeguard and instructor ratio.

One family in Texas in a similar situation to the Scott family has been fighting for more regulations for years.

Life was normal for the Chang family in Texas until one night in February of 2018 turned into a night they would constantly relive.

“It was the first time we left our boys somewhere outside our house, outside our sitter,” said April Chang, director of Mitchell Chang Foundation.

At swim lessons, their 3-year-old son, Mitchell, drowned.

She says there was no lifeguard and the instructor-to-child ratio was 16-to-1.

“We want to make sure other parents don’t end up in a situation because you signed your kids up for swim school or swim lesson to learn a life skill. You don’t want them to drown,” says Chang.

That’s why they created the Mitchell Chang foundation.

“This is a business. It’s being run as a business, and these are swim businesses that are making money and they are not regulated,” says Chang.

The Burke County Sheriff’s office gave an email response when we asked about private lessons. “Private pools are not regulated, only public, which is done by the Department of Public Health.”

“You would never fathom that almost this entire industry, even in the shopping center is completely unregulated,” says Chang.

DPH says they’re not responsible for instructor to swimmer ratios or certifications.

The YMCA tells us there is no governing body that says someone must be certified to teach at-home swim lessons.

For the YMCA, their ratio is four swimmers per eight teachers and a lifeguard. They try to keep it to four or five students for safety reasons.

The Red Cross doesn’t have classes locally, but they have a one-to-six ratio and a lifeguard.

Chang said: “You can have 30 or 100. However, many fit into your pool or whatever you want to do.”

There are a couple of big things parents should ask when they’re taking their kids to private swim lessons. One of the biggest: instructor to swimmer ratio. Then, if there is a lifeguard with an instructor and what certifications does the instructor have.

We checked with the city of Waynesboro about a business license. They say you do not need to have one outside of city limits.

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