The family of Abdullahi Charif has agreed to a $3 million settlement with the St. Louis Park school district. Charif was 12 when he drowned during a 7th grade swimming class at St. Louis Park Middle School nearly a year ago.
An investigation conducted by the attorneys representing the Charif family found that on the day of the drowning, the teacher declared a "free play" day and brought in a large, unsanctioned raft for the children to use.
According to the Charif family's attorneys, though the teacher knew Abdullahi couldn't swim, he nonetheless suspended basic safety rules, allowing even non-swimmers to play "king of the hill" in the deep end of the pool. While that was going on, the teacher allegedly was on his iPad. At some point Abdullahi sunk to the bottom of the pool, where he remained for over 15 minutes.
Last spring, Fox 9 reported that lighting above the pool where Abdullahi died was noticeably dim, and no certified lifeguard was on-duty while nearly 30 students partook in the class.
An official at St. Louis Park schools tells Fox 9 the teacher in question remains on paid administrative leave pending the result of an internal investigation. In the wake of Abdullah's tragic death, the district suspended all swimming classes until policies could be put in place to improve safety.
In a statement, Ali Warsame, Abdullah's father, says, "No amount of money can ever bring back Abdullah, but by filing this lawsuit, we sought to change the school district's approach to pool safety, so that no other family would ever have to lose a child the way our family did."
"Pool safety must always be the first concern and never again an afterthought, as it was on the day Abdullahi drowned," Ali continues. "Ultimately, what we learned in this lawsuit was that the St. Louis Park school district had a big problem when it came to pool safety. However, as a result of this lawsuit, the school district has begun to address this problem."
For context, the city of St. Paul agreed to pay out just over $1 million in settlements to the victims of a 2013 landslide at Lilydale Regional Park that killed two students. The Charif family's attorneys say $3 million is the maximum St. Louis Park schools can pay out under the terms of its insurance policy.
School District statement
From St. Louis Park Public Schools:
St. Louis Park Public Schools and the family of Abdullahi Charif have reached a settlement in the case of the pool drowning that occurred at St. Louis Park Middle School in 2014.
The District is pleased that both parties were able to reach a reasonable settlement. St. Louis Park Public Schools wishes the family well as they move forward in honoring the life of Abdullahi.
St. Louis Park Public Schools was able to settle within the parameters of the school district's insurance policy and there will be no impact to the district's general fund.
Student safety remains a top priority for the school district. Pool safety has been addressed and discussion is on-going regarding swimming curriculum at the Middle School.
The Middle School Teacher involved in the incident remains on paid administrative leave from the school district pending completion of internal investigations.