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Swimming is no longer required to graduate from DLHS

Detroit Lakes High School students will no longer be required to take and pass swimming in order to graduate.

That was the decision made Monday morning at the monthly school board meeting, as board members approved the change in a 3-to-2 vote.

The requirement, which has been one in Detroit Lakes for generations, had found resistance among some students and parents, and district leaders heard those concerns.

“By requiring all ninth grade students to get in the pool in front of their classmates…were we putting kids in a bad place because they don’t have a comfort level with themselves at that age?” said Superintendent Doug Froke. 

Froke went on to say that despite available waivers to excuse students from the swimming requirement, school leaders also understand that times have changed, social pressures have changed, and they did not want to create another situation where bullying could occur. 

In addition to those personal concerns among students, there were also logistics issues that came with the swimming requirement. 

“Right now we don’t have an instructor at the school who is WSI (water safety instructor) certified,” said Detroit Lakes High School Principal Steve Morben, who says that’s not required, but it may create significant liability issues, “if we’re putting kids in the pool and we don’t have a teacher that’s certified to rescue a kid from drowning, should we be putting lifeguards in the pool? And what if a parent doesn’t want their child to take the swimming part of the unit? Now we have to provide alternate instruction for these kids. If a kid already has a level 5, then what do we do with them that period?”

All of the what-ifs, along with students’ concerns, were enough for the majority of the board to vote for the policy change. Board members Ladd Lyngaas, David Langworthy and Terrie Boyd voted in favor of the changes, while board member Jackie Buboltz was absent.

Tom Seaworth and Brenda Muckenhirn both voted “no.”

“As a physician, I recommend that parents get their kids into swimming lessons because it may save their lives one day,” said Seaworth. “Just like seatbelts, it’s a common sense thing to live by when there’s so much water around here.”

Before voting no, Muckenhirn also questioned whether it was an option to incorporate swimming into the physical education program for younger students, and expressed concern about losing an important life-long skill.

Langworthy pointed out that the board gives physical education teachers a good deal of latitude, meaning they can still decide on their own to incorporate swimming as part of their curriculum if they so choose.

Morben said the opinions of the phy ed teachers were taken into account, and while he said not all supported the change, most were “alright with it.”

Students will still be required to take the same amount of physical education requirements with swimming still being offered as an elective.