The Wenatchee World

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Do not overlook student safety, ever

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A Chelan County Superior Court judge has ordered Wenatchee High School teacher and coach Ed Knaggs reinstated to the job from which he was fired after the unspeakably tragic drowning of 14-year-old student Antonio Reyes in 2011. We find ourselves in agreement with Judge Lesley Allan, and still wonder how and why Knaggs could be made the sole repository of blame by a school district that then had a swimming pool filled with students and no official policy on how to use it safely.

There was no policy, written or verbal, Knaggs’ attorneys said. There was no formal training, no recommended procedures, no set way to test a student’s swimming ability. The basic safety rules in place at any public pool were either casual or non-existent at Wenatchee High. Knaggs was a trained and certified lifeguard, but on the day Reyes drowned there were 26 students in the pool. Knaggs was doing the job the district asked him to do — instructor, coach, administrator, and lifeguard. He was the only lifeguard on duty, teaching a class that included treading-water drills and waterpolo games. Every other pool in the region questioned by The World requires a lifeguard on duty dedicated solely to swimmer safety, in addition to the instructor, any time anyone is in the pool. It is nearly impossible for one person to teach and also account for all students in that situation. It is standard procedure for a lifeguard to thoroughly check a pool after the student swimmers leave it. Knaggs did this in part, but Wenatchee High was sorely lacking in standard procedures.

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