Members of the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate have endorsed a bipartisan bill that recognizes the importance of water safety for children throughout Florida. The bill, known as Water Safety and Swimming Certification for K-12 Students, will serve as a reminder that learning to swim at a young age can instill positive health habits in children while helping save lives.

“We are thrilled that the Florida Legislature has recognized the value of water safety and the positive impact this bill will have on saving lives,” said Dr. Bill Kent, Chairman of the Board of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and member of the Keiser University Board of Trustees. “This is a great cause for celebration and a major step to ensuring Florida’s children learn to enjoy our waterways and pools safely,”

The bill encourages parents to register their school-aged children for swim lessons by requiring public school systems in Florida to distribute information on the important role water safety education plays in recreational swimming. The bill does not mandate or require swim lessons, but rather provides materials to parents about local options for age-appropriate water safety courses and swimming lessons, including classes offered for free or at reduced prices.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), drowning is responsible for more deaths among children aged 1-4 than any other cause except congenital anomalies. The landmark bill, however, serves as a reminder to parents that learning to swim at an early age can both save lives and lead to positive recreational and health habits.

“Learning to swim at an early age is one of the most important skills that we can teach our children,” said Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Dara Torres. “Learning to swim not only saves life, but it is a great recreational activity that many Florida residents can take part in year-round.”

Both the Consumer Protection Safety Commission and the CDC suggest that learning to swim at a young age can drastically reduce the risk of drownings for children and teenagers. In Florida, swimming lessons are taught to children as young as 12 months by public, private, and non-profit organizations. Throughout the state, scholarships and grant programs exist to help those who may struggle to pay for swimming lessons.

On October 1, 2021, Keiser University will host an event featuring Torres, and co-chaired by Keiser University Advisory Board members Tom DeRita and Yvonne Boice. The event will serve as the first step in the construction of an aquatic center at its flagship campus in West Palm Beach. Once complete the Olympic-sized swimming pool will not only serve as the home to the Seahawks’ NAIA Championship swim teams but could serve as another resource to help economically disadvantaged children learn to swim.

“As a member of the Keiser University community, I am honored that Keiser was able to play a role in the passage of this landmark legislation to build a brighter future for Florida families,” said Belinda Keiser, Vice Chancellor of Community Relations and Student Advancement at Keiser University. “We commend and thank Tom DeRita, Dr. Bill Kent and Brent Rutemiller at the International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum, and Dominic Calabro with Florida Tax Watch. Their collective compassion and determination made the difference.”

Keiser University is a private, not-for-profit university, serving nearly 20,000 students and employing 3,800 faculty and staff members. Co-founded in 1977 by Chancellor Arthur Keiser, Ph.D., the university currently offers more than 100 degrees at 21 Florida campuses, as well as online and at two international sites. Keiser University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges as a level VI institution to award certificates and degrees at the associate, baccalaureate, masters, specialist, and doctoral levels. For additional information regarding Keiser University, visit www.keiseruniversity.edu.