According to the Detroit Free Press the prosecutor’s office in Macomb County, Mich. has authorized a charge of involuntary manslaughter for Johnathan Lamonte Sails, an East Detroit high school swim instructor, who allegedly allowed one of his students to drown last year.
Sails, who arrived at the 38th District Court in Eastpointe, Mich., today for his arraignment, could face up to 15 years in prison along with a $7,500 fine.
“These are beginning swimmers, and we have a guy in there who has no certification,” County Prosecutor Eric Smith said of the instructor. “This isn’t a cooking class where the guy lied about his credentials … it’s life and death where kids don’t know how to swim.”
On Nov. 8, 2013, East Detroit High School student, KeAir Swift, drowned after his classmates’ pleas for help fell on deaf ears. According to the Free Press, the unqualified instructor was in the bleachers—and not in the pool where he belonged—when students in his remedial swimming class told him that the 14-year-old was in trouble.
According to reports, Sails did go to check on Swift and saw him at the bottom of the pool; but instead of jumping in to grab him, he walked off to change clothes.
The county prosecutor accused the 24-year-old Sails of brushing aside the students, assuming that Swift was just goofing off. Upon hearing the uproar, the vice principal of the school rushed in and dove into the pool … but it was too late.
“If [Sails] had immediately taken action, something might have been different,” Smith said, according to the Free Press. “This needless tragedy could have easily been avoided.”
According to Smith, police think that the East Detroit Public Schools shares responsibility in the tragedy, but the department would likely be unable to prove negligence by the district. The instructor apparently lied to the school district about his certification.
This brings to the surface the need for better administrative training. School districts are required, or should be required, to do background checks on employees, where all claims of certification would or should be documented.
As of this writing, a “Not Guilty” plea has been entered on Sails’ behalf.
Read more at the Detroit Free Press.