65ºF

Mumford High School swimming teacher charged in death of student who drowned during class

Kareem Sigler charged in death of Da’Sean Blanding

Da’Sean Blanding
Da’Sean Blanding (WDIV)

DETROIT – A swimming teacher at Mumford High School has been charged in the death of a 15-year-old student who drowned in a school swimming pool during class, according to authorities.

De-Sean Blanding, 15, of Detroit, was a student in Kareem Sigler’s 11:20 a.m. class at Mumford High School, officials said.

On Feb. 24, Sigler was in another room when a student told him Blanding was at the bottom of the pool, authorities said.

Sigler, 47, of Detroit, dove into the pool and pulled Blanding out with the help of other students, officials said. He told the other students to call 911 while he rendered medical assistance, police said.

Medical officials arrived at the 12:15 p.m. and took Blanding to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

READ: Mother of boy who drowned at Mumford High School says son was bullied, wants law changed

Authorities say Sigler was “grossly negligent” in failing to supervise Blanding. That negligence resulted in Blanding’s death, officials allege.

Sigler is charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

“We are alleging that the evidence in this case shows that the death of Mr. Blanding could have been prevented," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said. "While swimming pools are certainly desirable, they can also be death traps without proper, necessary, and needed supervision and preparedness.”

Sigler will be arraigned at 10 a.m. Wednesday at 36th District Court.

Autopsy report

An autopsy report from the case showed there was a bruise on Blanding’s head, which caused the family’s lawyer to ask what really happened.

“He was killed. That’s horrific. That should not have happened,” attorney Johnny Hawkins said.

Since late February, Blanding’s family has been looking for answers on what happened in the untimely drowning of the student at Mumford High. Hawkins has been in contact with the boy’s mother every single day.

“Miss Blanding is extremely distressed. She’s trying to be as patient as she can," Hawkins said. “She’s frustrated and she wants answers, but I’m telling her I’m sure that we’re getting closer, because now more information is coming in."

According to the autopsy report, Blanding was believed to be under water for at least 30 minutes and had a bruise of his head resembling the grate along the outside of the pool – insinuating the teen either fell in or was pushed.

Other children in the class admit to horseplay, but Blanding’s family believes he was constantly bullied because of a learning disability.

“That’s consistent with the information that we’ve gathered from students and parents of students who are in this class that being the students that said that there was there was, there was an altercation that broke out with Da’Sean and others just before he was found in the pool," Hawkins said.

In response, the Detroit Public School Community District, sent a statement, which in part reads:

"We continue to mourn the loss of Da’Sean with the Blanding Family.

"On March 17, 2020, the DPSCD Board of Education terminated the swim teacher based on the superintendent’s recommendation. The teacher was tasked with supervising students during the swim class where the fatality occurred. According to news reports and correspondence from the Blanding family attorney, the autopsy report does not conclude whether the incident was accidental or foul play. As such, we will await findings of DPD who is leading the investigation into the manner of death. Even though we can’t interfere with DPD’s investigation (nor would we), we will continue our internal review to determine if any students or staff beyond the teacher were involved or responsible for this incident.

"If DPD finds that foul play by DPSCD students or staff occurred and/or if our administrative review shows that students or staff were involved in the incident beyond the swim teacher, then we will move swiftly to take action under the student code of conduct and employee work rules and policies.”

In the meantime, Hawkins is working with a state representative to create an anti-bullying law in Blanding’s name.


About the Authors: