PS agrees to $250,000 drowning settlement

Demariont'e Brown-Elliott The 12-year old, after failing one swim test, was supposed to stay in shallow water.

NEGLIGENCE CLAIM

The Omaha Public Schools board voted Monday night to approve a $250,000 settlement with the mother of a seventh-grader who drowned at Nathan Hale Middle School in 2014.

Demariont'e Brown-Elliott was found at the bottom of the school's pool during gym class on Nov. 14. He died at the hospital the next day.

Last January, Adrienne Elliott filed a $1 million tort claim against the district, alleging that her son died as a result of negligence by OPS employees and administrators who failed to properly supervise the swim class and ensure student safety.

According to the claim, Demariont'e, 12, and his classmates were under the supervision of one physical education teacher who was providing basic swimming instruction at the indoor pool, whose depth ranged from 3 feet to 10 feet. According to his family, Demariont'e was a novice swimmer who already had failed one test and was supposed to stay in shallow water.

As students were lining up to leave the pool area, the claim said, it was discovered that Demariont'e was not with his classmates. The teacher reportedly walked to the deep end of the pool, noticed someone at the bottom and jumped in. After several attempts, the teacher was able to bring the boy to the surface and attempted CPR.

Emergency responders also were summoned.

OPS officials have never released a full account or timeline of the accident, citing federal privacy laws.

But officials did say that 10 students were in class that day, as part of an aquatics unit for gym class. The teacher had taken a course in first aid, CPR and sports injury and a course in swimming during college. The pool area contained multiple pieces of safety and rescue equipment, including hooks, tubes and an emergency phone.

At the time, there were no cameras in the pool area, so no video footage exists of the accident.

Douglas County prosecutors determined that the boy's death was an accidental drowning, and no criminal charges were filed.

In the settlement, OPS admits no wrongdoing or liability. The settlement also includes a confidentiality provision that bars Elliott and her attorneys from speaking publicly about the claims of negligence or talking to the media about the incident.

The district also agreed to pay funeral home Heafey-Hoffmann-Dworak-Cutler $5,000 for the boy's funeral services.

World-Herald staff writer Andrew J. Nelson contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1210, erin.duffy@owh.com

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.