A Plea to Texas Lawmakers

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I received a copy of a powerful letter sent to members of the Texas State Senate and Governor Rick Perry.  The Letter is from a reader whose grandson drowned last year.  Shortly after his death, she discovered that her state is one of the few that have no residential pool safety laws regarding access, and she is on a mission:

Her letter is posted here so that other Texas residents can send it in, along with their support, joining Kim in her request that Texas enact legislation to better protect its children from drowning.

A Plea to Lawmakers:

My name is Kim Southerland Jacinto and I was a grandmother. I’m not anymore. Last year my two-year-old grandson, Bryan, wandered next door – through an unlocked front gate – and into the neighbor’s pool.  After a desperate search he was found too late; the 93rd childhood drowning victim in Texas in 2009.  It was August.  There would be 20 more.

Going through the obvious grief and pain of a loss so dear, my family is doing its best to move on.  But your grandchildren are supposed to bury you, so it has been hard to get past it all. Grief being what it is, and a grandmother’s love being what it is – I’ve been working hard to figure it out and more than that, actually do something.  I know you are very busy, but please bear with me through the hard things I’ve learned over the year since Bryan’s death:

  • Drowning is the leading cause of death for Children under six years old in Texas.
  • For every child that dies from drowning, another four are hospitalized for aquatic injury – some never fully recover.
  • In 2009, the 113 childhood drownings were a state record; eclipsing the average of 70.
  • 2010 is on track to break the record again.
  • Residential pools and spas account for over half those deaths.
  • The State of Texas has no laws governing access control of residential swimming pools.

Where I live in Dallas County, laws require me to obtain a permit to build an addition on my home, to install a home security system,  or to have a garage sale.  I have seen neighbors receive violations for such crimes as parking with the car facing the wrong way; for putting the garbage out too early; for having the grass be too high.  None of these laws “protect” us really.  Sure, they help keep good order and I’m not complaining about the laws we have, but they shed a glaring light on the ones we don’t.

My neighbors can’t have grass that is too long, and have to keep their trash in the garage until trash day, but they can have a wide open deep pool of water in their backyard unguarded and unprotected and they haven’t done anything wrong.

Please know that I am not talking about blame or fault.  Believe me, we have been through and continue to struggle with those awful questions.  My hope, my plea really, is that I can get you to talk about solutions.

The CDC believes that four-sided pool barriers with self-closing and locking devices reduce the chance of drowning by 50-90%.  There are other ways to protect pools and spas that should be discussed as possible solutions.  The State of Florida gives a list of protective measures to homeowners and requires they pick two that work for them.

Last summer, the Texas State Child Fatality Review Team Committee, after extensive study on the subject, published their “Position Statement: Water Safety for Children” and in it had “Recommendations to the State of Texas and the State Legislature.”  I’m begging, please take their advice.  Doing so would align Texas law with laws in other states, and with recommendations from organizations like the CDC, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, experts in water safety around the world, and thousands of grieving parents and grandparents.  Please; you can save lives with a pen.  Pass legislation to require access control for residential pools and spas.

My grandson is gone.  I hope you do all you can to save his friends.


Kim Southerland Jacinto


If you’re from Texas, please sign Kim’s petition here.

Voice your support to Texas lawmakers and to Governor Rick Perry.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Coast Guard.

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By | 2010-10-12T17:16:19+00:00 September 15th, 2010|Leadership, Water Safety|24 Comments

About the Author:

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  • kristie mcdonald

    Hello, My name is Kristie McDonald and I live right outside of Charlotte, NC. I was surfing the web in regards to other things and saw the swimjim login on one of my facebook pages! and thru looking at comments of one of the staff up north, i think hamptons area, I saw your letter, read your plea, and was educated of your fight to save and protect all the precious lives in Texas!! As everyone has expressed, I am so sorry about your loss! You wish you could find the words or something better or more then that, a way to really get how affected and sad for you and your family I am. I grew up in a very small cotton mill town and the mill owned basically the entire town, houses and all. The owner’s name was Mr. William James (W.J.) Pharr. He was an angel sent from God but I did not know or understand just how blessed I was to be born where I was and under a man of such GREAT integrity, generosity, and giving heart. You see, when we came of age set by our town pool as guidelines they would minimumly let take swimming lessons, that is where we received them. And basically all of the children in our town and even in the surrounding areas and every employee of every mill owned by Mr. Pharr could bring their child. All our parents had to do was sign us up. thats it. MR. PHARR paid for, covered everything. HE BUILT AND OWNED THE POOL!. The reason we had a pool and when built, it was the best, state of art pool-facility was offered! BUT, this is why I telling you this, THE REASON our town, Pharr Yarns employees, had a pool since the 50’s was due to a tragedy that happened in the very late 40’s to beginning of 1950’s. Before then, people in general, but particularly the children would go swim in the river that ran directly thru our town, aka The South Fork River. Mr. Pharr was such a caring, humble man that he would go be with families that lived in our town, and of course he made sure to live there amongst us there too, or worked for him. On one tragic day in the time that I spoke of, a child went under – missing after deciding to take a swim in the river. They began to drag the river in attempts to find the child. By this time, all knew that it was just a recover mission. Mr. Pharr im sure had a big hand in the events to try to find and then organize, ask officials etc to help locate the child for and to help the parents. BUT AS HE ALWAYS DID WITH TRAGEDIES ETC AFFECTING HIS OWN, he went and stood with the parents as they did this awful procedure, made this effort to bring closure etc for the parents. After standing with, being there for, trying to comfort, and watch this just happen tragedy strangle and torture the parents with horror and a reality that never leaves the same, and this was the first time he had went and be and stand with family when someone, usually a child, went in but never came out, he vowed that day, that time, that IT WOULD BE THE LAST TIME HE WOULD STAND, OR HAVE TO STAND AND WATCH THIS CONTINUING RECURRING HELL!! HE VOWED TO BUILD A POOL WHERE OUR CHILDREN, YOUR CHILDREN, “HIS” CHILDREN AND THATS HOW HE TRULY FELT COULD ENJOY AND EMBRACE THE SUMMER AND THIS TIME OF YEAR, AND HAVE FUN, DO AS CHILDREN DO AND WANT TO DO, IN TRUE SAFETY! So when I was born, I had this “pool” and swimming lessons when of age, and even a by now a SWIM TEAM to participate in, with!! and thats a whole other story for if he had not built the pool, I would have never been able to participate with, in that type of activity etc. Only children that parents could afford “PRIVATE MEMBERSHIP” to private-secluded pools with dues that never could be considered in my home or 99% of the homes, families, kids in this town for sure!!!! I did not understand that, nor the rare opportunity, experience etc it was for me and everyone on that team then and thru out the years since having one!!! I did not understand I would have never met, rubbed shoulders with the economical level of people that we all did and our parents and gained and formed friendshps with them etc so when older, particularly high school and came in contact with those people on a daily basis, I could ease my way in and out of circles etc of all levels, income, status, etc. without even ever thinking about it, especially like that and that context. I just knew them “already”, they were my competitors, rival swimmers, friends, and they already knew me and had a mutual respect and knowledge of me so “they” didnt even think about it!!! They were just GENIUNELY GLAD TO SEE ME AND THAT I WAS A STUDENT THERE ETC!!! ISNT THAT SOMETHING!!!! But getting back to why I have wrote a book so far to you! Now Im 44 years old. I have gone through alot and cannot put you thru having to read ALL OF THAT TOO!!!!haha but some months back, I decided that I was going to in the near future try to set up, organize, find a facility where Im allowed to etc., AND GIVE FREE SWIM LESSONS BUT TO START ADULTS, PARTICULARLY TO PARENTS “AND” AT FIRST AND PRIMARY FROM THE GET GO AND FOR AWHILE AFTER HOPEFULLY GETTING IT ORGANIZED – SCHEDULED…… TO BLACK PARENTS AND PROBABLY OTHER ETHNIC PARENTS BUT HAVENT SO DONT AS OF YET KNOW THE STATS OF OTHER ETHNIC (mexican for exmpl) groups and what their normal exposure etc to lessons or at least knowing how to float, cope if and when they are around or get in water. Blacks as a whole especialy in the south, are as a group terrified of water……. Well from my era back that is true. It is better with younger generations. They as a group have way, way more access to water, pools then they ever have before!!! And with that comes the horrible issue. Their children and grand children have access routinely now, and these children want to swim, play, have fun etc., just like and as the other children do and have!!! BUT almost none of the grown ups, AND I MEAN NO ONE, no how to even or can do the basic float etc! SO IF A BLACK CHILD WONDERS INTO A POOL OR JUMPS IN UNEXPECTEDLY ETC., EVEN IF GROWN UPS ARE RIGHT THERE THE SECOND IT ENTERS THE WATER….. THERE IS NO ONE WHO KNOWS HOW TO SWIM…… OR THEY GO MISSING AND ARE FOUND IN TIME TO SAVE THE CHILD, AGAIN, ALMOST 100% DO NOT KNOW AND HAVE A HORRIFIC FEAR OF THE WATER, MOST, ON TOP OF THAT PROBLEM!!! IT IS AN EPIDEMIC IN THEIR COMMUNITY!! I knew this but after reading an article just a couple of months back about a party and a child getting in without knowledge or consent and was drowning as people looked on and luckily a professional football player just happened to be home and from that community and at that party and had now experience etc with water due to work out etc he had been subjected to thru the team he is playing for and he had to overcome his fear and get in the water and learn to at least do enough to make it thru the routines etc., that he was able to go in an retrieve the child!!! That article, that decision I had already made but yet to make a reality, seeing the swimjim advertisement etc and clicking on it to see if there was any info in=on there that could get me started somehow or at least add to my knowledge for when Im ready to begin etc., brought me hear and to type your ear off!!! After reading your letter, and your plea and your fight and yours and your family unbelievable heartache and tragedy….. I am going to seriously begin immediately to start making the calls to facilities, do the research to gather and learn what the requirements and so is required and I need to be able to put this program together and I have decided that I AM GOING TO DEDICATE AND NAME THE PROGRAM AFTER YOUR GRANDSON AND YOU AND MR W.J. PHARR! Im sure this will not be the last where your courage, strength, vitality and the desire to save lives and for your grandson not to simply die in vain, will inspire other things, people, events, solutions, and-or provide help of some kind to another soul…… PARTICULARLY AN INNOCENT, FRAGILE LIFE OF A CHILD JUST LIKE YOUR ANGEL NOW – AKA GRANDSON!!!!! KEEP UP THE WORK!!!!

  • Bryan’s Nana


    Thank you so very much for your touching story. I can be found on facebook as Kim Southerland Jacinto & I would love to talk more with you and was wondering if you had a facebook or email you could share?

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