Policy at city pools was changed last week after a misbehaving 7-year-old was told by a lifeguard to “go home.”
The boy grabbed his towel and walked the three miles to his house by himself.
When his parents arrived at the Hillyard swimming pool to pick him up and learned he’d been evicted, they panicked. The police were called.
“He’s never walked more than the two blocks from our house to the school,” said his mom, Riva Bursch.
“He’d left the pool two hours earlier. We didn’t know where he was. He had no way of knowing how to get home,” she said.
Eventually, Romy Bursch showed up at home. He’d walked the distance barefoot, wearing only cutoffs and carrying his towel.
“I can’t believe they would just let a child go off like that,” said Bursch. “They didn’t ask who he was with or where his parents were. We were totally terrified.
“It is a miracle he got home,” she said. “He crossed several busy streets. He crossed Market and Wellesley.”
David Early, the city’s aquatics supervisor, said from now on pool managers will call a child’s home to let families or caregivers know that the youngster has been evicted from the pool.
“They will need to come and get them,” said Early.
Lifeguards at city pools are told to give misbehaving children a warning. If a second warning fails, they are given a time out.
“Typically that gets their attention,” said Early. “Lifeguards have the authority to evict a child from the pool for a day, or for the whole summer if the event warrants it.”
Lifeguards are charged with the responsibility of watching hundreds of kids each day, said Early. In the five weeks city swimming pools have been open, 13,000 children and about 600 adults have come through the gates to swim.
“They need a register, or somehow sign the kids in when they come to the pool in case something happens to them,” said Bursch.
Early said that as long as the city swimming pools are free for children 18 and younger, they will remain Spokane’s free baby-sitting service.
In this case, when the lifeguard told the boy to go home, the second-grader didn’t call his parents.
“He never told the lifeguard that he lived far away,” said Early.
“He’s just 7 years old,” said his mom.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
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