Assemblymember Chris Holden introduced legislation, AB 768 that provides critical updates to California’s pool and open water safety programs.
“To save precious young lives, we must ensure that caregivers are equipped with the best resources,” said Assemblymember Chris Holden. “Schools are an ideal means for providing drowning prevention awareness and education to millions of students and caregivers.”
Specifically, AB 768 requires the Division of Boating and Waterways, Department of Education, and Department of public health to create updated pool and open water safety policies and programming that can be readily adopted by California schools.
California ranks 3rd in the U.S. for the most drownings. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for children 1-4 and second for children under 14. Only 1% of parents who participated in a nationwide survey consider drowning to be a home safety concern, yet nearly 90% of drownings occur with an adult nearby.
In June of 2019, 6-year-old Roxie Forbes drowned at an Altadena, California, summer camp. In the wake of Roxie’s preventable drowning, her parents Doug Forbes and Elena Matyas, established the Meow Meow Foundation in honor of their daughter. The couple has worked tirelessly to develop an end-to-end childhood drowning prevention model, including legislation.
“The very tragic fact is that fatal and non-fatal child drownings are on the rise yet again, largely because drowning does not receive the attention it desperately deserves,” said Forbes and Matyas, the bill’s sponsors. “We must also remember that Black children drown at rates up to five times more than white children and that a vast number of children do not swim or understand how to be water-safe at all.”
The Assemblymember will also introduce a perennial resolution to further honor Roxie and the Forbes’ commitment to this issue. If approved, Roxie’s Drowning Prevention Month will afford statewide educational and experiential prevention campaigns each May.
The World Health Organization has concluded that drowning is a highly overlooked epidemic with nearly 400,000 reported annual drownings, although that number is widely reported to be conservative. Additional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Consumer Products Safety Commission and Safe Kids Worldwide continue to implore governments to prioritize prevention, including integration with other public health initiatives.