Saskatchewan’s advocate for children and youth has released his report on the September 2017 death of a five-year-old boy who drowned in a storm water retention pond near Saskatoon’s École Dundonald School.
A coroner’s report confirmed Ahmedsadiq Hussein Elmmi drowned after running to the pond during recess on his very first full day of school. A subsequent report from Saskatoon Public Schools revealed the boy’s parents had been in contact regarding their son’s diagnosis of autism, and had worked alongside educators to come up with a plan for their child.
That plan called for an educational assistant (EA) to monitor Elmmi and hold his hand throughout recess periods as he was prone to run towards traffic and water.
The school board report stated that a different EA took over monitoring Elmmi during recess. After a few attempts to run, he eventually managed to pull away and ran towards a nearby slide. At this point, the EA became briefly distracted, then noticed Elmmi was missing. Staff then found the boy lying unresponsive in the pond, at which time he was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
In line with the legislation governing his office, provincial child advocate Corey O’Soup’s report doesn’t use Elmmi’s real name, referring to him instead as “Angel.”
O’Soup’s report focused on how the Ministry of Education and the school board handled integrating Elmmi into class.
He wrote that staff worked hard to come up with a safety plan for Elmmi before the start of the school year. However, O’Soup noted that issues were raised prior to his arrival at Dundonald.
“We also found that in the days leading up to Angel’s first full day of school, staff appropriately raised their growing concerns about safely integrating him into school,” O’Soup wrote.
O’Soup’s report exonerated the EA who was monitoring Elmmi at recess, noting the staff member was not made fully aware of the boy’s needs.
“By not fully sharing this safety plan or ample information about Angel’s special needs with the EA assigned to Angel for recess,our review found that the EA was placed in an untenable position.”
O’Soup went on to write that the full scope of the boy’s safety plan was not implemented on his first day of class. He also criticized the school for lacking a policy on outdoor student safety in light of the nearby pond.
“Consequently, I find that Angel’s death was preventable,” O’Soup told reporters.
The child advocate’s report contained 11 recommendations for the ministry, Saskatoon Public Schools and for Dundonald itself.
Those included a call for the ministry to direct all school boards in Saskatchewan to maintain cumulative records of all kids with special needs. Other recommendations called for beefing up requirements for schools to communicate between themselves when transferring a child with special needs.
Other recommendations called for Saskatoon Public Schools to require any school near a potentially hazardous external feature, such as a pond, to develop written plans for keeping kids safe.
The report also called on the ministry to work with all Saskatchewan school boards to identify hazards near the province’s schools and come up with appropriate plans for keeping kids safe.
Hours before the report’s release, Elmmi’s parents filed a lawsuit against Saskatoon Public Schools and the City of Saskatoon, alleging gross negligence in the child’s death.
—With files from 650 CKOM’s Chris Vandenbreekel.