Sask. child advocate to investigate death of Saskatoon kindergarten student
'Extraordinary response' needed after 5-year-old found in pond near school yard
Saskatchewan's child and youth advocate will independently investigate the death of a five-year-old kindergarten student who was found Monday in a pond near a Saskatoon school.
The boy has been identified by the Saskatoon Open Door Society as Ahmedsadiq Elmmi.
"This is an extraordinary tragedy, which I believe requires an extraordinary response," said Barry MacDougall, the director of education for Saskatoon Public Schools, in a media release issued Wednesday morning.
MacDougall said the division has asked Corey O'Soup, Saskatchewan's advocate for children and youth, to investigate the death of the student, who attended École Dundonald School.
Little is known about what happened outside the school Monday morning.
Just after the recess, the boy went missing and police were called. He was found minutes later in a pond less than a hundred metres from the school yard. He was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead shortly after arriving.
The school division's own internal investigation into what happened will continue, and the province's chief coroner is also looking into the death, MacDougall said.
"We pride ourselves on the ethic of care we provide to every student in order to ensure their safety and well-being," he said.
"We must learn from this tragedy so it never happens again."
Ahmedsadiq's family held his funeral in Saskatoon on Tuesday, said Shafii Mohamed, the president of the Saskatoon Somali Community group.
"The parents are feeling devastated," said Mohamed on Wednesday. "They're heartbroken. They have no words. Every time I talk to them, they're crying. Disbelief.
"He was their heart. He was their happiness. Now they've lost him."
The boy's mother has lived in Canada since 2000 and his father since 2011. They're both originally from Somalia, according to Mohamed.
The family moved to Saskatoon two months ago from Prince Albert so that both parents could take some courses, he said.
The Somali and Muslim community in Saskatoon has rallied to the family's side, offering car rides and helping with groceries.
2nd day at school
On Tuesday, after the funeral, members of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan's Saskatoon chapter gathered at a mosque to bring food and extend their condolences to the family.
Mohamed is acting as an intermediary for the parents, who he said have been overwhelmed since Monday.
"It was only his second day at the school," said Mohamed, "and this happened. It's not an easy situation for the parents and for all of us."
Mohamed said the Somali community was "shocked" that the Saskatoon Public Schools division did not speak to the boy's family until Wednesday morning.
"Are they lacking resources? Is this the way they do things? That's not what we're expecting. It's Canada," said Mohamed.
School division regrets perceived 'lack of care'
A spokesperson said via email the division tried to contact the family and make itself available in the 24 hours after Ahmedsadiq's death.
"We have sought advice and worked closely with our colleagues in the Muslim community to ensure our actions were respectful of the family," the spokesperson said.
"We regret any implication that this displayed a lack of care on the part of the school division."
A group of trustees and staff members from École Dundonald School and the division attended the funeral Tuesday at the invitation of Ahmedsadiq's family.
"This morning, [MacDougall] was welcomed into the family's home and shared with them the details of the accident that are known so far and what the next steps will be going forward," the spokesperson said.
'Someone has to be responsible'
The division did not lay out a timeline for the child advocate's independent investigation.
Mohamed said Ahmedsadiq's parents and the Somali community want answers.
"What exactly happened? Where were his education assistant [or] supervisor? Where were the other schoolteachers maybe who were around that time? How did he die?
"Someone has to be responsible."