News

Parents of teen who drowned on campus file claim with SRVUSD

Claim states the district did not do enough to ensure student safety

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District has been hit with a claim from the family of 15-year-old Benjamin Curry, who drowned in the San Ramon Valley High School pool in early May.

The claim -- which typically precedes a lawsuit -- argues that Curry’s physical education teacher failed to properly supervise the students in his class, further calling it negligence done with a “willful and knowing” disregard for student safety.

“Mr. (Aaron) Becker's actions show that he was aware of the probable and dangerous consequences of his conduct, and deliberately failed to avoid those consequences,” the claim reads. “Additionally (SRVUSD) and its employees failed to properly train, hire and supervise those individuals who were responsible for Benjamin Curry’s death.”

Prepared by the Curry family’s lawyer Andrew C. Schwartz, the claim states that toward the end of class, Curry drowned after Becker had the class tread water for three minutes, not allowing students to touch the pool’s ropes.

After extending the exercise for an additional 30 seconds, the claim alleges that Becker failed to notice Curry slip under the water and drown due to exhaustion and then dismissed the class and failed to notice Curry was not among the students leaving the pool.

The claim further noted that no lifeguards were present to assist the teacher in monitoring the class of 57 students, and the district did not have adequate policies in place protecting students in school pools.

Released in June, the Contra Costa County coroner's autopsy report and Danville police investigation concluded that the drowning was an accident and not self-inflicted as some initial reports suggested. Police recommended no criminal charges and determined no criminal negligence contributed to the boy's death in the campus pool.

“As class ended, students were seen swimming to the edge of the pool and leaving the pool area. Based on camera angles, it was unclear if (Curry) left the pool with the other students or if he remained in the pool. Video surveillance captured no further activity in the pool area until approximately 1:40 p.m., when fifth-period swim class arrived at the pool area," Danville police officer Kyle Rhoton recounted in the coroner's report, after watching a school video recording of the incident.

SRVUSD officials, who received the claim last week, said they have not had time to review it and are unable to comment on its contents.

Officials did, however, address one aspect of the claim, which stated that the district failed to correct the false narrative that Curry took his own life.

“As a school district, we were not in a position to comment on an open police investigation into the cause of death. What we did do is encourage our families not to speculate on the cause of death or engage in rumors,” SRVUSD spokesperson Elizabeth Graswich said.

Graswich highlighted a letter sent to community members and parents in May by SRVHS principal Jason Krolikowski, encouraging them to not participate in uninformed speculation.

“We understand that there are many rumors circulating in the community, but we want to discourage students from discussing these rumors since they may turn out to be inaccurate and can be hurtful and unfair to family and friends. We'll do our best to give you accurate information as it becomes known to us,” he wrote at the time.

Since the incident, SRVUSD has not offered swimming as a part of their PE curriculum, and pools are currently limited to water sports teams such as swimming and water polo. Additionally, in August the district announced that it would now mandate every pool be staffed with at least three lifeguards when in use, following safety guidelines established by the American Red Cross.

Previous projections indicate that the lifeguard program will cost about $125,000 for the fall semester.

Comments

81 people like this
Posted by Drew
a resident of Danville
on Oct 8, 2018 at 11:28 pm

Aaron Becker continues to show up and laugh and joke around while working at school. Ben Curry has since been cremated and only is a memory for his parents and the community. This is not right and Aaron Becker needs to be fired from the district. Aaron Becker was in a hurry and decided that a student at the bottom of the pool was not his responsibility. Aaron Becker works for me (the community) and I have fired him. SRVUSD please give him notice of his termination. Teachers that do not feel they are responsible for every kid in their class have no business being teachers. Every life is important and are not to be just wasted for self improvement of the teacher. Aaron Becker had his chance at being a teacher and he failed the most basic responsibility. Aaron Becker good luck on your next career you are not cut out to be a teacher.


63 people like this
Posted by mrszalewski2
a resident of Danville
on Oct 9, 2018 at 6:16 am

mrszalewski2 is a registered user.

As SRVHS parents, lets begin a petition for the changes that we feel need to occur. As Aaron Becker is part of the teacher’s union, I’m sure he will have to go through the disciplinary process prior to being terminated. I know it sounds illogical in light of what has occurred but given no charges were filed, I believe it is the only recourse. As parents, we hold more power than we are aware. It may sound extreme but each day our children don’t attend school, SRVHS loses federal funds. We could hold an entire day absence and keep our children at home to show our displeasure about the way things have been handled. I also know of parents who are looking at other schools for their children to transfer into. Any and all suggestions are welcome for as a group we can evoke the needed change.


23 people like this
Posted by Sandy
a resident of Danville
on Oct 9, 2018 at 6:56 am

I had to go in front of a SRVUSD board of 19 (not a typo) community representatives, including 2 cops, vice principles, and other admins just to request my son be switched from an elective Spanish class into any other elective class. But they think it's okay to have just one adult supervise 57 students.


59 people like this
Posted by Evan
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 9, 2018 at 9:28 am

Rick Schmitt superintendent of SRVUSD comes from a school district with no pools.
Why does SRVUSD top administrators come from much smaller districts. Rick is from a school district of 12,000 students we have 32,000 students. The CBO (risk manager)Greg Medici comes from a district of 2,900 students. We are the district that suffers with administration that can offer no expertise in the management of a large district. The past couple of years SRVUSD administration is proven they are a lawsuit waiting to happen. We suffer as the administration learns on the job. We pay professions to manage the district and they are failing in their responsibilities. Rick is in over his head. How many more cases of the parents correcting the districts response to events do we have to endure? Such as the recording of a girl in the bathroom. Which was only addressed after the threat of a lawsuit. In this case the correct response having now learned that Ben Curry died while under the care of Aaron Becker is that Aaron be suspended while his termination is being completed. But I am sure SRVUSD does not like the financial impact of that response and is waiting to be forced.


11 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Danville
on Oct 9, 2018 at 9:37 am

Just curious if any of the parents who want this teacher to be fired voted in tenure? Thank you to liberal Danville, California for making this harder.


48 people like this
Posted by Evan
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 9, 2018 at 9:48 am

Because the district is lacking in experience let me help them out. "AB-215 School employees: dismissal or suspension: hearings. Which was passed in June 25, 2014. This act is intended to revise existing statutes in a manner that will update and streamline the procedures for certificated employee discipline and dismissal, making it more cost effective and reducing the time necessary to complete the dismissal process." Aaron Becker's actions fall into a couple of the cases that are justification for dismissal.


25 people like this
Posted by hamilton
a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Oct 9, 2018 at 10:00 am

hamilton is a registered user.

Marie ~
A young man has died. This is not because of liberals or conservatives! Keep your politics out of it.


11 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Danville
on Oct 9, 2018 at 10:28 am

hamilton: Don’t jump to conclusions, I did not say anything about conservatives or liberals is the reason why he died. Those thoughts are disgusting. I just stated the fact that if everyone wants to complain that he’s not fired, there is a reason, and that reason is because liberals voted in tenure. But if you want to bring in politics, this is the same argument that liberals condemn conservatives for saying marriage is between one man, one woman, and God and how they twist this belief to say we are against all people living the way they want to live. If you are a true religious conservative, you would understand these are two separate points. But let’s get back on topic!


5 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 9, 2018 at 10:31 am

So from what the lawsuit says the students were treading water during which Curry drowned and no one out of 57 people noticed? I hope that the police interview all the students form the class to better understand what happened.

"After extending the exercise for an additional 30 seconds, the claim alleges that Becker failed to notice Curry slip under the water and drown due to exhaustion and then dismissed the class and failed to notice Curry was not among the students leaving the pool."


Like this comment
Posted by hamilton
a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Oct 9, 2018 at 12:04 pm

hamilton is a registered user.

Sorry, Marie, you and I are going to have to agree to disagree!


Like this comment
Posted by hamilton
a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Oct 9, 2018 at 12:04 pm

hamilton is a registered user.

Sorry, Marie, you and I are going to have to agree to disagree


12 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Danville
on Oct 9, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Hamilton: respect! Agreeing to disagree make America great.


66 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Danville
on Oct 9, 2018 at 4:57 pm

I played football for many, many years. Most the coaches had a certain trait...a huge ego. Punishment was pleasurable to them. They'd sit while players barfed and almost collapsed from heat exhaustion.

It seems to me Becker meets this profile. Treating normal kids like they're doing Navy Seal training. Unbelievable and now deadly.

Mr. Becker...please resign. Go away. Be sorry. Live the rest of your life trying to do good for the family and for all kids. You continuing to work with kids is an insult to every parent in the District. Go away.


13 people like this
Posted by mrszalewski2
a resident of Danville
on Oct 10, 2018 at 6:12 am

mrszalewski2 is a registered user.

So many questions and no answers probably because of the pending litigation. I would like to know what the other students in the swim class revealed to investigators. I guess it won’t come out until trial. I wonder if the district is afraid of a wrongful termination suit from Becker if they fire him before the trial. He could claim he was”only following orders”...as many of those involved in history’s atrocities have done.


10 people like this
Posted by Betty
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2018 at 8:33 am

mrszalewski2, Do not give up seeking the truth.
Try to get the police report using a public records request. From this and other articles it seems Curry's lawyer is basing the claim on the police report. Might need to get report number from Danville PD. Here is link where you can find out more. Web Link.

Would help more but do not live in the area. Do not be surprised if you need to appear in person to make the records request. From the behavior of the school district my guess is they were betting on the family of the student taking an offer of big bucks and going away. But it looks like you live in a affluent area and I doubt the family needs the money. Lawyers for the guilty hate dealing with people that do not need the money. Please help the grieving parents and community to stay strong and seek the truth.


8 people like this
Posted by Channon
a resident of Danville
on Oct 12, 2018 at 6:20 am

The worst event ever imaginable. I hope this settles out of court so that the parents don’t have to relive the worst thing to ever happen to them.


5 people like this
Posted by mrszalewski2
a resident of Danville
on Oct 12, 2018 at 7:40 am

mrszalewski2 is a registered user.

I’m sure it will settle out of court in mediation. The SRVHSD doesn’t want this horrible matter to see the inside of a courtroom whether it be in front of a judge or a jury. However, the Curry family still has to relive the most horrible day in their life as mediation is two sided. They have to be there along with their attorney and SRVHSD with their attorney as well. I know from first hand knowledge as I had to participate in mediation when my daughter was severely injured in a car accident caused by another driver. Mediation can still be very traumatic for the injured and survivors.


10 people like this
Posted by Nebuchadnezzar
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 12, 2018 at 9:00 am

Let's not rush to judgement like some of us did with Brett. K. Let's give the man a chance at due process. Another thing that makes America great. In the meanwhile I think it's only fair that the district should reassign Baker, with full pay, to perhaps, crossing guard duties? We get to temper our own opinions by seeing the man in action.


12 people like this
Posted by mrszalewski2
a resident of Danville
on Oct 12, 2018 at 9:10 am

mrszalewski2 is a registered user.

Good ideas about assigning Becker to other duties. There is an incompetent math teacher still employed at SRVHS who was moved to the attendance office . I don’t know whether that transfer was done based on parent complaints or if the school officials woke up and realized she could not effectively teach math. And that transfer was the not the result of a student death


2 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 12, 2018 at 9:40 am

It still isn't clear to me if Curry drowned during class or stayed behind after everyone was told to leave the pool and then drowned after class. Did I miss something?


32 people like this
Posted by Katie
a resident of Danville
on Oct 12, 2018 at 10:31 am

Ben drowned in class. In front of Aaron Becker. And then the class and Becker left for lunch. Ben’s towel, shoes, and phone remained on the bleachers as well. The next swim/PE class after lunch (over an hour later) found Ben at the bottom of the pool.


Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 12, 2018 at 10:47 am

@Katie He did? How do you know and the police and coroner do not? Os there more information you wish to share?

“As class ended, students were seen swimming to the edge of the pool and leaving the pool area. Based on camera angles, it was unclear if (Curry) left the pool with the other students or if he remained in the pool. Video surveillance captured no further activity in the pool area until approximately 1:40 p.m., when fifth-period swim class arrived at the pool area," Danville police officer Kyle Rhoton recounted in the coroner's report.


33 people like this
Posted by Katie
a resident of Danville
on Oct 12, 2018 at 11:18 am

There was no further activity in the pool area after Becker’s left until the next class arrived in the pool area. How would Ben get back in the pool and drown if no one else got back in the pool during that hour+ time period? They might not have seen whether or not he left with the class but he sure didn’t get back in afterwards if no activity happened and the next class found him in there. Just doing the math.


28 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Danville
on Oct 12, 2018 at 11:57 am

Chris, You are referring only to the coroner's report not the police report. The police report was not completed till July 5th The Curry's have access to the police report and video it is conclusive that Ben did not surface again.
This article is a watered down version of articles on the claim against SRVUSD. It does not even mention that Aarron Becker is the varsity football coach. Which is critical to understand what happened in that pool.


Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 12, 2018 at 12:56 pm

It didn't seem that there was footage that actually showed what happened based on the Police's comment:

"Based on camera angles, it was unclear if (Curry) left the pool with the other students or if he remained in the pool."


27 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Danville
on Oct 12, 2018 at 1:49 pm

Chris, You are again referring to the coroner's report. That is not the police report. Coroner's report contains the first review of the video by the police. Kyle Rhoton is the resource office on site at SRV high he is not a detective. The police report contains a much more detailed review of the video.


Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 12, 2018 at 3:14 pm

@Parent Oh, can you post your copy of the police report?


42 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Danville
on Oct 12, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Chris, literally nobody can because you can’t attach files here. Not sure what you’re trying to prove but a 15 year old boy died on school grounds during school hours. It was ruled accidental aka not a suicide and no foul play. If you’re attempting to point blame at anyone other than school officials, you are misguided in your judgement of the duties our teachers have for the safety of our children. Ben is not to blame for his own death. The students in his class are not to blame for his death. But drowning is 100% preventable and the school district and teacher were able to prevent this. They did not. Defending them is senseless and does a disservice to our children and Ben’s memory.


1 person likes this
Posted by Chris
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 12, 2018 at 8:34 pm

All I’m asking for is the facts of what happened. Is there additional information available? Did Ben drown during class? After class? Was it due to a teacher forcing him to tread water? What angles do the camera show? Is there actual footage of what happened?


Like this comment
Posted by Mom of 2
a resident of Danville
on Oct 14, 2018 at 9:32 pm

So many comments off topic here. It is truly sad and no amount of money will help. I hope it settles out of court so only those involved know the facts. So many dimensions, 57 kids in PE due to funding issues. They overload PE so the “core” classes can have fewer students. Look at the district for that. It’s the pressure put on all our teachers, teaching more with less.

People are being asked not to speak, probably because of the lawsuit.
@Parent, why is it important to mention he’s the football coach? @David, is that your leap to judgment/stereotype about all football coaches? I don’t care for Becker but there are too many angles to this story to be hashed out among people in the community, that are too quick to judge.


10 people like this
Posted by mrszalewski2
a resident of Danville
on Oct 15, 2018 at 5:57 am

mrszalewski2 is a registered user.

@ Mom of 2. I agree with you and that no sum of money will bring Ben back or alleviate the suffering of his family . I disagree with you in that I believe the public does have a right to know so that we can be assured that an event such as this will never occur again. I think that the Curry family does want the public to know as they released the coroner’s report. Strangely enough prior to this tragedy, Aaron Becker was my favorite teacher at SRVHS and taught my 3 children PE and coached my son in football. Because this tragedy was so out of character for Becker, it is important for the public to know the facts of the case. For those who want to bury their heads in the sand and call it” a tragic accident “, history is doomed to repeat itself ,


11 people like this
Posted by Sport_Parent
a resident of Danville
on Oct 15, 2018 at 7:31 am

Mom of 2, With a kid who plays a year around sport I have to say that it is relevant that the PE teacher is the varsity football coach. How Aaron Becker ran the treading drill is classic football and basketball technique. To improve the team punish the entire team for the weakest player. This will have three benefits for the team. The weakest player will be shamed into pushing himself to the limit. The other players will harass the weaker player about the fact that they all had to repeat the drill because of him. The weakest player will quit the team. Team sports are about the team winning. Ben played year around basketball so he probably pushed himself to the limit. Ben had been at open gym that morning from 6:00-7:30 am. and the treading drill was after swimming laps at around 12:30 .


37 people like this
Posted by TL
a resident of Danville
on Oct 15, 2018 at 1:51 pm

@Chris you should demand the facts from the school district and elected school board. The fact that people like you are still asking for the "facts" after 5 months accomplishes their goal - lack of information makes people question the truth and takes the focus off of the fact that a child went to school and didn't come home to his family because he died in the school's care through no fault of his own. Period. Every single parent should be outraged about that alone. The district said in statements to the MEDIA that they would provide "accurate info when it becomes known." They have said NOTHING to the parents of the 30000 students in the district or the tax payers who approve their bond requests. Don't let them hide behind "lawyers" or "possible litigation". There are UNDISPUTED facts that they fully know and have known since the week Ben died. My son was in the PE class. We went to the police station the night Ben died and I reviewed the video with him and the police. We saw him go under water on the video in the class. He did not come back to the pool after everyone left and the police AND school have known that from the beginning. His dry, folded towel, shoes and cell phone were sitting poolside when the teacher left. After the teacher added more time, Ben slipped under the water at the end just as everyone was getting out of the pool so the kids didn't notice. People keep wanting to avoid getting the facts out and censoring posts, but that adds to the secrecy and misinformation. For the school, the less people know, the better. But, that puts our children at risk of a repeat. In October last year, a Freshman at Cal High also drowned in PE class at the end as kids were getting out of the pool. They have a lifeguard at Cal High (not at SRV). The PE teacher noticed the student in the water, pulled the student out (not breathing and with no pulse). After 3 rounds of CPR, they revived the student. The teacher warned at a school board meeting the next month that a child might die with high enrollment numbers in the class. We didn't hear about this because the school refused to let parents in the district know so we could ask questions about safety or protect our kids. I recently stumbled upon this information by accident, NOT bc the school my kids attended told me, which I would expect when I pay taxes and donate money to their schools. That is the tragedy-they are trying to do it again here. Why is the school issuing statements in the press but have not said anything directly to parents or the community about the FACTS since the week Ben died - only a vague statement sent only to families of SRVHS. Why nothing to parents district wide - we ALL have an interest in our kids' safety, regardless of the school our kids attend. The Cal High incident and Ben Curry shows what happens when the district limits information. As for Mr. Becker, if a teacher left a first grader in a hot bus after a field trip who died, would the teacher not be placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation? This is not about personally attacking anyone or questioning whether they are a good or bad person. If a teacher has a job, and a child dies on their watch, where is the accountability? There is a mom in our community whose only child died when she sent him to school. How many chances does one get when a child dies?


21 people like this
Posted by Parent In The Dark
a resident of Danville
on Oct 16, 2018 at 9:43 am

SRVUSD needs to explain the lack of action on accountability for the death of a student now!
The following facts are true and SRVUSD needs to give the community answers on how they allowed the facts to happen.
1) Student died during PE class.
2) 57 students one teacher
3) Rumor not stopped with truth on day tape reviewed. Even if all that was disclosed was that Ben did not sneak into pool after class was over. SRVUSD knew this the day of the drowning.
4) Student not detected while slipping under water
5) Student not detected at bottom of pool.
6) Class dismissed with out a student present.
7) PE teacher not suspended during criminal investigation.

Each of the facts need to have accountability from SRVUSD to the community. The tragic drowning at Castlewood Country Club which occurred in a private swimming pool had more transparency then a drowning at a public high school. Both had video of the drowning and faced litigation. With Castlewood the public learned within one week from the drowning what had happened in that pool. We are still speculating as to what happened in our public high school pool.


1 person likes this
Posted by Chris
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 16, 2018 at 10:52 am

@TL
Thank you for the additional information and clarification of the facts. This is the first time that someone who had seen the video stated that the video showed Ben going under during class as students were getting out. I'm glad that I kept asking questions because now a factual account of Ben's tragic death is finally getting out to the public.


3 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of San Ramon
21 hours ago

SRVUSD please publish the list of teachers that are allowed to be responsible for the death of a student. Just want to make sure my son does not end up with any teachers on such a list. Will understand if the list is private. Could create an uptick in student deaths if the teachers on such a list became aware of their immunity.


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