Jeremiah Perry, the 15-year-old Toronto teen who drowned in Algonquin Park during a school trip last month, failed a swim test that should have prevented him from attending.
“Documentation from the swim test indicates that Jeremiah did not pass the test,” Toronto District School Board Director of Education John Malloy said during a press conference Wednesday.
“I am deeply troubled by these findings and that such a critical safety requirement in our procedures appears not to have been followed.”
Perry was swimming with a group of classmates at Big Trout Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park on the evening of July 4 when he went underwater and did not resurface.
Search and rescue crews located his body the following day and officials said he died of an apparent drowning.
Perry attended C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in Toronto and was taking part in a week-long field trip with 32 other students.
“The approval form was very clear and set out that students who did not pass either the canoe trip swim test or the pool test were not allowed to go on this canoe trip,” he said.
“Of the 32 students who went on the trip, 30 were recorded as taking the swim test. Of the 30, 15 students failed the swim test and 15 are recorded as passing.”
LISTEN: John Malloy joins the John Oakley Show on AM640
The circumstances surrounding the teen’s death are still under investigation by the Chief Coroner for Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police and a third party company.
“In sharing this news with Jeremiah’s family earlier today, I said to them, and I say publicly now, on behalf of the TDSB, I offer our most sincere apology and regret,” Malloy said.
“I also want to apologize to the families of the other students who went on the trip even though they did not pass the required swim test.”
Malloy said the investigation revolved around how the incident happened and the TDSB would immediately focus on what it can do to put in place “more stringent measures for future field trips.”
VIDEO: TDSB issues apology to family of student who drowned on Algonquin Park trip
“I have indicated to Jeremiah’s parents that we have already taken action to tighten our excursion safety measures, approval process and documentation and will continue to review implementation of these interim measures,” he said.
“I know they want us to take steps to ensure this cannot happen to another student.”
Malloy said the TDSB had taken the following measures in response to the incident:
- All future trips of this kind will be approved only after the principal of the school sees and reviews documentation showing that only those students who passed the appropriate test will be going on the trip.
- All students participating in a pre-trip canoe/swim test will be given the results of this test.
- All parents of children taking part in future trips that include swimming and/or canoeing will receive their child’s canoe/swim test results prior to the trip. They will know that if their child is going on a trip, they have passed the test.
- A full third-party review of TDSB excursion procedures will be conducted — specifically as it pertains to “high-care” activities such as multi-day canoe trips.
Malloy said the investigation is “not yet complete” and the TDSB had spoken to nearly all staff, students and volunteers who attended the trip.
“We have not yet been able to speak with a few individuals who, in light of the ongoing police investigation and on the advice of their legal counsel, have exercised their legal right not to speak at this time. We hope to be able to speak with them as soon as possible,” he said.
“Although this has obviously been a tragic and difficult time for all involved, I do want to reassure TDSB students and parents that the TDSB intends to continue to provide all students access to and opportunities for outdoor education.”
Malloy said the trips provide students with “valuable learning experience and skills” but the TDSB would not do so at the “expense of student safety.”
VIDEO: TDSB to continue ‘important’ canoe trips despite student drowning
“A fundamental requirement of any field trip is that parents trust their children are under our professional care. They must have confidence that the appropriate safety measures will be in place,” he said.
“We take this responsibility very seriously, and will continue to work diligently to restore their confidence. Going forward, we will provide important updates to Jeremiah’s family and the public once the results of the full investigation are known.”
A candlelight vigil was held at Perry’s high school on July 21 which was attended by family and friends.
The school board confirmed to Global News it is supporting the family financially by covering a portion of the funeral costs.
With files from David Shum