Lifeguard, swim teachers convicted over young refugee's drowning

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Lady Justice (Picture: Twitter/@danvelton). Lady Justice (Picture: Twitter/@danvelton)

On Thursday the court in Utrecht sentenced a lifeguard and two swim teachers to 60 hours of community service. They were found guilty of death through negligence in the  at 't Gastland pool in Rhenen in September 2015. Two primary school teachers were acquitted, NU.nl reports.

The court ruled that there is a casual link between the drowning of the young refugee and mistakes made by the pool employees. "The responsibility for the safety of the swimming lesson was here primarily with the swimming teachers", the court ruled. "Due to lack of vigilance and lack of communication, they fell short in supervising Salam in several aspects." According to the judge, the girl's death was an accident, but one that could have been prevented.

The ruling sparked concern among swimming coaches and teachers across the country, about what it could mean for any future accidents that happen during swimming lessons. "We have been in discussion with other schools for some time to discuss this", a teacher from Heemstede said to Haarlemse Dagblad. "It can not be that teachers can be held responsible for everything that happens to children during school hours. There must be clear instructions about this."

In this specific case, the court acquitted the two primary school teachers present at the swimming session. The two teachers did make mistakes by not keeping a sufficient eye on Salam, the court ruled. But they were not aware of this, and according to the court, that is the school's fault, not the individual teachers.

Nine year old Salam arrived in the Netherlands only a few months before her death. She fled from war in Syria with her family. She did not speak Dutch and could not swim. Salam and another child received a swimming lesson in the shallow pool on the day of her death. About 15 minutes after the lesson was over, another pool visitorThe other kids were already dressed by that time. Salam was rushed to the hospital and resuscitated, but the girl was already dead.

Salam's parents are "extremely disappointed" that the teachers were acquitted, their lawyer Bert van Egelen said after the ruling on Thursday, according to NU.nl. 

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