LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new law in Arkansas is hoping to help keep kids safe in the water.
HB 1157 was signed into law by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders Wednesday. The law requires public schools to educate students on water safety and allows schools to apply for scholarships for swim lessons for students who cannot afford them otherwise.
The idea for the legislation came from the heartbreaking experience of a mother.
“We called her Em,” Cassie McGovern said, referring to her 19-month-old daughter who drowned in her family’s home pool back in 2009.
McGovern said that tragedy has given her a sense of purpose. That purpose is creating change across the country when it comes to water safety for kids.
“Upon leaving her, I made her a promise that I would commit my life to it,” McGovern said.
The nationwide change comes in the form of “Every Child a Swimmer” legislation that has been signed in multiple states, now including Arkansas.
Instead of running from the heartbreak of losing her daughter, McGovern said she did the opposite.
“It does keep that wound open, but I think it keeps it relevant,” she said. “It keeps me driving forward.”
Arkansas is one of the first three states to pass this legislation, behind Florida and Georgia.
It was first introduced by Rep. Mary Bentley (R-District 73), who said she started noticing the need for change after meeting McGovern.
“In my own district, there are absolutely no places for kids to learn to swim,” Bentley said.
Bentley added that the bill has bipartisan support in the legislature.
McGovern said this bill becoming law is one of the first steps to change that she promised Em she would make nearly 15 years ago.
“I am really, really proud that I have done that,” McGovern said.
Bentley said schools will begin implementing water safety courses in the upcoming school year. As for the scholarships, schools can begin applying for those now. To apply for scholarships, schools can visit, EveryChildASwimmer.org.