US- Somali family seeks answers in boy’s drowning at St. Louis Park school

– A 12-year-old boy who drowned in a St. Louis Park school swimming pool was part of a class of about 30 children being supervised by a teacher who was not a certified lifeguard, the family’s attorney said Monday.

The boy, Abdullahi Charif, was discovered floating in the deep end of a swimming pool at a St. Louis Park middle school last Thursday. He did not know how to swim, according to the family’s attorney, Fred Pritzker.

Charif was first taken to Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital and then transferred to St. Paul Children’s Hospital. He was pronounced dead on Saturday.

Pritzker said the St. Louis Park school district has told them very little about what happened, citing its ongoing internal investigation.

“They want to know what happened,” he said of Charif’s family. “This was a mandatory gym class, and this child was not a swimmer.”

Pritzker said the boy did not know how to swim. He also said the gym teacher was not a certified lifeguard and was supervising up to 30 students when Charif drowned.

He said the family wants to know how the school could allow a child who couldn’t swim to go into the deep end of the pool. Also, he said, the family doesn’t understand how anyone could not notice a drowning child.

“This lack of information only compounds the family’s grief and mistrust,” Pritzker said.

The school district issued a statement from Superintendent Rob Metz on Monday that said that as part of its investigation, the teacher on duty at the time of the incident has been placed on paid administrative leave. The middle school pool has been closed.

Also, Metz said that the school has been in contact with the boy’s family since last week.

“On Thursday, staff met with a family member at the hospital and remained there until the family requested that all school staff and officials leave,” Metz said. “At that time, the family also indicated that they did not want the district to release any information about the student. The district has respected these wishes but continued to reach out to the family both in person and over the phone in the days following the incident, including a meeting with a family representative on Sunday evening.”

The school district has set up a fund for the family at Citizens Independent Bank. Donations can dropped off at the bank or mailed to Middle School Student Fund c/o Citizens Independent Bank, 5000 W. 36th St., St. Louis Park, MN 55416.

By Kim McGuire , Star tribune