Parent questions ‘no life jackets’ rule
Crowds flocked to Barefoot Bay Aquatic Center in Mundelein as temperatures soared on Thursday, June 28, 2012. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Do you think kids should be allowed to wear life vests in municipal pools?
Updated: August 27, 2012 10:36AM
MUNDELEIN — Judd Hackl wants to make sure his kids are safe when they are swimming in the water.
So Hackl was shocked when his wife was told by staff at the Mundelein Park District’s Family Aquatic Center that his two young children, Ashlee, 6, and Frank, 4, could not wear life jackets while in the pool.
“They said you can’t wear those, it’s against our policy. It doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.
Hackl of Long Grove said he has taken his kids to other swimming pools in the area and there’s never been an issue with their wearing life vests. He said he’s written to the Mundelein Park District to express his concerns but the policy remains in place.
“I’d feel terrible not giving my kids life jackets and then something happens to them,” he said. “I’m responsible for my kids. They’re not letting me protect my kids.”
The Mundelein Park District policy is that flotation devices are not allowed in the aquatics facility.
Mundelein Park District executive director Margaret Resnick said the district does not allow flotation devices in the pool, such as life jackets, rafts or other inflatables, for a variety of reasons.
Resnick said one reason is life jackets can give young swimmers and parents a false sense of security. As a result, children might enter deeper areas of the pool beyond their swimming ability, potentially putting them at greater risk.
“We think it’s more important that children be closely supervised (by an adult) than have a vest,” she said.
Another issue is that allowing a large number of flotation devices, such as life vests, may make it more difficult for lifeguards to see areas of the pool where someone may be drowning.
“If you have a lot of people with vests on, the guards in charge can’t see the bottom of the pool clear enough,” she said.
Resnick said the pool does make exceptions to the policy to allow life jackets for individuals with disabilities. He said an individual with a physical disability or condition that necessitates the use of a life jacket is allowed to use a Coast Guard approved life jacket in the pool.
Pools in Libertyville and Vernon Hills do allow life jackets to be used, subject to specific rules.
Gina Brown, aquatic director for Adler Park and Riverside pools in Libertyville, said the pools allow the use of life jackets or vests but they must be approved by staff to ensure they are safe for pool use.
Brown said the life jackets must be safe and properly fitting through the shoulders with a strap through the legs.
“It’s still up to our discretion,” she said. “If it’s not something that looks safe, we wouldn’t allow it.”
Brown said the pools do not allow other flotation devices, such as rafts and noodles in the pool, until after 6 p.m.
Jay Bullman, aquatics supervisor for the Vernon Hills Park District’s Family Aquatic Center, said the pool allows only Coast Guard approved life jackets in the pool. He said the pool provides life jackets for parents who feel a need for added protection for their children.
“We still insist that if kids are in life jackets that the parents be with them in the water because if they’re wearing a life jacket it means they’re not a strong swimmer,” he said. “Most of the kids that are confident swimmers don’t want a life jacket.”
Bullman said the pool restricts the use of inflatable flotation devices, such as rafts and water wings, because “if they go down the kids go down.”
Hackl said he would like to see the Mundelein Park District change its policy to allow kids to wear life vests.
“I think it’s a silly policy,” he said. “I probably won’t get back there until they change it.”
Resnick said the policy would not be changed during the current swim season, but the park board will likely review it in the coming months based on resident concerns and may make changes if the board deems it necessary. If the district ever changes the policy, she said the pool would likely provide the vests, which would have to be Coast Guard approved and properly fitting for children of different ages.