San Ramon Valley schools Superintendent Rick Schmitt publicly apologized on Friday for the on-campus death of San Ramon Valley High freshman Ben Curry, marking the first time district officials have issued a formal written apology district-wide since the freshman drowned in the school pool last school year.
Curry, 15, was pronounced dead at a local hospital after drowning during physical education class on May 8. The boy became unresponsive underwater toward the end of the class's fourth-period swim session, but he wasn't discovered until the start of the next PE period, after lunch.
"This event was and will remain a tragedy in our hearts and minds forever. The District sincerely apologizes to the Curry family and all community members," Schmitt said in a written statement released Friday afternoon.
"Despite pending litigation, the District wants to be responsive to the ongoing conversation and publicly apologize to the Curry family and all community members," Schmitt added. "The District continues its internal review on policies and procedures related to SRVUSD pools. The District recognizes its responsibility to safeguard all students."
Schmitt and district officials have not confirmed whether Curry's PE teacher Aaron Becker, first-year principal Jason Krolikowski or any other employee at the Danville school was reprimanded by the district in connection with Curry's death on campus last school year.
The Curry family filed a wrongful death claim with the district last month, alleging that not only did the PE teacher fail to properly supervise the students in his class but the district allowed malicious rumors surrounding the boys death to circulate unimpeded.
"They accept the districts apology, but there are a lot of unanswered questions that this statement does not address. And my clients will still, despite this apology, never get their son back," said attorney Andy Schwartz, who represents the Curry family.
In his statement Friday, Schmitt went on to address some rumors that circulated revolving the teen's death and attempted to refute them.
Confirming previously released information by the Contra Costa County Coroner's Office and the Danville Police Department, Schmitt refuted previous rumors that Curry's death was the result of suicide. The superintendent further confirmed that Curry did not drown after re-entering the pool when class had ended, as some initial reports suggested.
"Further, the District felt it was inappropriate to comment on the circumstances of this tragic accident during an open police investigation," Schmitt wrote.
While addressing the rumors, Schmitt did maintain that the district administration discouraged staff, students and families from spreading rumors following the drowning, adding that the district did not initially release Curry's name due to his family requesting privacy.
Last month the Curry family filed a claim -- which typically precedes litigation -- against the SRVUSD, claiming that Becker showed a "willful and knowing" disregard for student safety, resulting in the boy's death. Becker remains employed at San Ramon Valley High as a PE teacher, varsity head football coach and associate athletic director.
The claim further noted that no lifeguards were present to assist the teacher in monitoring the class of 57 students, a policy that has since changed.
In August, the district announced that it would now mandate every pool be staffed with at least three lifeguards when in use -- although swimming has been removed from the PE curriculum this semester.
Below is Schmitt's statement from Friday, in its entirety:
"Dear SRVUSD Parents and Staff,
As many of you know, Benjamin Curry drowned in the San Ramon Valley High School pool during his physical education class on May 8, 2018. This event was and will remain a tragedy in our hearts and minds forever. The District sincerely apologizes to the Curry family and all community members.
Through this communication, the District wants to clarify rumors circulating in the community surrounding this tragic accident. One rumor is that Benjamin caused or contributed to his death. More specifically, part of the rumor is that his death may have been a suicide. Neither the Contra Costa County Coroner's Report, nor the Danville Police investigation, indicated that Benjamin caused or contributed to his death. The Coroner's Office and Danville Police found Benjamin's death was an accidental drowning. Another rumor claims that Benjamin drowned after reentering the pool following his 4th period physical education class. A video of the pool on May 8th shows that Benjamin entered the pool in 4th period with his classmates and did not exit the pool with his classmates at the end of the period.
Immediately following the tragedy, the District discouraged staff, students and families from spreading inaccurate and hurtful rumors. The Curry family initially asked the District to respect the family's privacy and not share Benjamin's name. The District honored that request. Further, the District felt it was inappropriate to comment on the circumstances of this tragic accident during an open police investigation. Despite pending litigation, the District wants to be responsive to the ongoing conversation and publicly apologize to the Curry family and all community members.
The District continues its internal review on policies and procedures related to SRVUSD pools. The District recognizes its responsibility to safeguard all students. Since the tragedy, the District has suspended the use of pools for all district physical education classes. The District also instituted a requirement that every time District pools are in use, dedicated and certified lifeguards will be present.
There are no words to describe the collective sorrow following the loss of Ben. Please know the District has been and will continue to be in contact with the Curry family attorney to address their legal claim. By sharing the above information and offering our sincere apology, the District hopes to provide accurate information to support the Curry family and the community.
San Ramon Valley Unified School District"