ST. CLOUD (AP) -- The family of a student who drowned last November in the Apollo High School swimming pool has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the St. Cloud School District.
Shuai Jiang, 13, was found in 12 feet of water almost 20 minutes after his swimming class had ended on Nov. 16, 1999. Doctors said he had suffered irreversible brain damage.
The boy's father, Jing Ze Jiang, filed the lawsuit Friday on behalf of the family, seeking damages of at least $50,000. The lawsuit alleges negligence in operation, supervision and maintenance of the swimming pool.
The lawsuit also states that Shuai, a freshman at Apollo, was compelled by the school curriculum to participate in swimming and water-related activities in the pool even though he disliked the water, was a poor swimmer and was unable to understand English very well.
School records show that Shuai's teacher, Timothy Bengston, did not perform a head count or a roll call on the day that Shuai drowned, said Leo Feeney, attorney for the Jiang family.
Bengston refused to comment on the lawsuit.
''He was basically left there,'' said Feeney, of the Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi law firm in Minneapolis. ''The class gets out of the pool, no one looks for him. The teacher goes back to swim, and he swims right over him.''
After dismissing Shuai's class that day, Bengston had gone back to the pool to swim for about 12 minutes but did not see Shuai's body.
St. Cloud police reports said Bengston could not see Shuai because a water exchanger had caused a cloudy swirl in the pool. Lines painted at the bottom of the pool to mark swimming lanes further obscured the view.
According to the lawsuit, the district was negligent because it violated a city ordinance that states pool water must be clear enough so the bottom drain is visible whenever the pool is in use.
The suit also alleges the district failed to properly train its personnel in the management, supervision and operation of a swimming pool and violated Red Cross Water Safety Standards published to ensure the safe operation of public swimming pools.
''It's something we anticipated. I'm not surprised,'' said Carol Lewis, vice-chair of the school board.
The board has contacted its insurance carrier, Mahowald Insurance Agency, which will provide attorneys to represent the district. The St. Cloud agency will proceed by working with St. Paul Insurance Cos.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.