Following the tragedy of the Mansfield ISD ninth grader who drowned during a school trip to Corpus Christi, the school district announced it's making changes to their field trip policy. The district hopes these changes will prevent something like this from happening to other students.
Michelle Dinger says the only reason she let her son Kenneth, a senior from Birdville ISD, join hundreds of students in Corpus Christi two weekends ago for a skills competition was because of what she was told by administrators. When parents asked whether any Birdville kids would be allowed to head out to the beach, they were told the students would not be allowed near the ocean.
It was during that same competition that 16-year-old Carlos Perez, from Mansfield Lake Ridge High School, drowned after he and four other students went wading into the Gulf, just south of the Bob Hall Pier.
Mansfield ISD announced Monday there would be changes to the way it will conduct some of its field trips. In a statement to parents, the superintendent said, "I believe it is in the best interest of our district to temporarily suspend or limit field trips that involve ocean-related or beach-related activities."
The superintendent's statement also called into question field trips that are already scheduled that involve hotel pools and water resorts. The statement continued to say, "Pools and water resorts that are well staffed with certified lifeguards and are capable of managing large groups may be appropriate. Pools and water resorts that do not have lifeguards or that may not be used to large groups would not be appropriate."
Dinger said the high surf was one of the first things her son mentioned to her when the Coast Guard was searching for Perez.
"He kept saying the water was really rough. It didn't look safe at all,” said Dinger. “And he had seen kids playing in the water.”
Perez was with a group of Mansfield Lake Ridge High School students and chaperones. According to witnesses, the freshman was standing in water about chest high, went under and was never seen again.
"Where's the supervision at?” said David Ibarra, whose daughter attends Lake Ridge High School. “Us as parents, we trust the school to take care of that."
Ibarra believes the district's changes are good but, sadly, too late.
"When the waves come in, it kind of takes you back in the water,” said Ibarra. “So, I don't know why they let them swim right there in the first place."
"I wish they would have did it before,” said Dinger. “Maybe everybody would have been on the same page, and something like this wouldn't have happened."
The superintendent, Jim Vaszauskas, also stated that any parent who already paid for a field trip, and now want to pull out because of this decision, will be refunded their damage deposit and any money they paid.