By Ryan McKenna, The Canadian Press
SASKATOON — The parents of a five-year-old autistic boy who died after falling into a pond on his first full day of school are suing the Saskatoon school board and the city.
Kindergarten student Ahmedsadiq Hussein Elmmi was found in a pond near Ecole Dundonald School on Sept. 11 after the morning recess.
The coroner’s office said the death was accidental and no inquest will be held.
Saskatchewan children’s advocate Corey O’Soup is to table his report into the boy’s death in the legislature this afternoon.
A statement of claim filed on behalf of the boy’s parents alleges his death was preventable and the school board was negligent.
The lawsuit also alleges negligence on the part of the city of Saskatoon for not properly fencing off the pond.
“The defendants, and Saskatoon Public Schools in particular, have shown outrageous disregard for safety and, in particular, the safety of Ahmed, special-needs children like Ahmed, and children in general,” the statement of claim reads.
“Ahmed’s behaviour of wandering/running is common in autistic children. But it is foreseeable that any child facing stress from attending a new school may decide to leave an unfenced playground and come to harm.”
No statement of defence has been filed and the claims have not been proven in court.
City of Saskatoon solicitor Patricia Warwick replied with a statement on behalf of the City.
“The City extends its condolences to the Elmmi family,” she said in the statement. “We are aware of the statement of claim filed today at the Court of Queen’s Bench.”
“We will carefully review and consider the statement of claim and respond in due course.”
A report by Saskatoon Public Schools released last week said Ahmedsadiq was fascinated by water and the school worked hard in the months leading up to his arrival to ensure his safety.
“The school felt confident that they had a solid safety plan in place for Ahmed’s arrival at school,” the report said. “Unfortunately, in the end the plan was not executed to perfection.”
An education assistant assigned to the boy held his hand at recess, the report said. Twice, Ahmedsadiq tried to free himself. On the third try, the report said, he lined up for the slide and recess supervisors lost track of him.
It all happened within five minutes, the report estimated.
“The possibility of children with behavioural problems like autism being ‘runners’ is a known phenomenon within the education system,” the lawsuit alleges on behalf of Hussein Elmmi and Fathiya Nour, the boy’s parents.
“Saskatoon Public Schools takes on a duty of care when students are registered to be under its tutelage and it was foreseeable that Ahmed would come to harm if allowed to be outside without an adult holding his hand and closely monitoring him.”
A imam who knows the boy’s family told The Canadian Press his parents were upset that the coroner ruled Ahmedsadiq’s death accidental.
“They (the family) are not prepared to accept what was given as an explanation by the coroner,” Imam Ilyas Sidyot said.
The coroner’s office recommended increased water safety training and that ponds be located away from schools in the future. It also suggested additional barriers for ponds near schools.
Earlier this month, a city committee proposed a wrought-iron fence be built to separate Ecole Dundonald School from the park where the pond is located. City council is to consider the recommendation next month.
— With files from 650 CKOM News