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Park district discusses pool rules

The Vashon Park District board plans to re-examine its policies regarding adult conduct at the Vashon Pool, after a contested incident there this month resulted in one Islander being kicked out of the pool and a lifeguard being fired.

The lifeguard who was fired brought his concerns before the Vashon Park District board last Tuesday.

Theo Krah, 22, requested that the rules and policies governing the pool, which is under its first year of park district management, be re-examined. He would like to see more power given to lifeguards, saying it would allow them them to better protect children.

Krah’s termination resulted from a July 5 incident in which he asked a male Islander to leave the pool and not return. Krah said he had been keeping an eye on the man for several weeks, after hearing rumors from fellow pool employees that the man had been kicked out of the Vashon Athletic Club for stalking high school girls there.

When Krah brought his concerns about the man’s reputation to pool management, he said they told him he could keep an eye on the man, but he could not ask him to leave if he hadn’t committed a crime.

Krah said that during the month of June he saw the man, who visited the pool daily to swim laps, staring at children and talking often with the young female lifeguards at the pool.

An incident in early July compelled him to step in without first speaking to a pool manager, he said.

“He basically walked into the path of a little girl, and she had to move to avoid being touched by him,” Krah said.

He knew that approaching the man and asking him to leave, which he did, meant risking his employment at the pool, he said.

Vashon Park District Executive Director Wendy Braicks, who was involved in terminating Krah, stands behind the decision.

“We followed park district procedure,” she said.

Tim Lafferty, aquatic facilities operator for the park district, said the pool had received no complaints about the man in question from either patrons or parents. In addition, a background check revealed that the man had no criminal record.

“We cannot act on conjecture and rumor, and that’s all that this gentleman has going on him,” he said.

While the commissioners commended Krah for coming to the meeting, they agreed that he violated park district policies when he broke the chain of command at the pool and asked a patron to leave for no substantiated reason.

“We don’t have the power to authorize a lifeguard to violate someone’s personal rights,” said board chair Mike Collins at the board meeting on Tuesday night.

A number of women at the meeting, however, expressed concerns about the policies that resulted in Krah’s termination.

Connie Casperson said it seemed like lifeguards at the pool are powerless to protect children until an incident occurs.

“Maybe you should let parents know their children aren’t necessarily safe at the pool because of your protocols. ... There are going to be situations where following the chain of command isn’t fast enough,” she said.

Commissioners said that policies are already in place to protect children at the pool, such as the rule that all paid patrons must wear wristbands.

However, they also agreed that perhaps the pool should have a code of conduct for adults similar to the one for children, and they plan to address this at their next meeting.

The library, for instance, has a clear set of guidelines for adult and youth patrons; the park district may use these policies as a basis for planning its own set of codes for the pool.

“The parents at the meeting who expressed an interest in having rules of conduct for everyone at the pool should be addressed, and we will look into the library’s guidelines and see if we can apply them to the pool,” said Braicks.

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