AUSTIN (KXAN) – A bill one Texas mother said is designed to better protect children at swim schools is in jeopardy at the Texas Capitol this week as we near the end of the session. It would take a last-minute push for the Mitchell Chang Swim Safety Act to pass in the Senate.  The bill is named after three-year-old Mitchell Chang, who drowned after a parent’s night out event at a Texas swim school.  

“The best way to describe him was warmth — you just felt him when he came in the room,” said April Chang, Mitchell’s mother. 

Her family enjoyed that warmth, his smile and spirit, until 2018.  That’s when they took Mitchell and his brother to a parent’s night out event at a swim school in San Antonio. 

“It was the first time they were left somewhere besides their pre-school without us,” Chang said. 

Chang and her husband went out to eat to pass the time. 

“We were eating, and we got a call from the fire chief, and he was like you need to go to the hospital, Mitchell has been in an accident,” said Chang. 

They rushed to the hospital where they learned Mitchell was unresponsive, and a medical staff member said he drowned.

“He goes, ‘he did not have a heartbeat’ and that meant my son was dead,” Chang recalled, emotionally.  “We get to the hospital, and they are working on our baby trying to save him.  They were able to get a heartbeat, but he was brain dead and he fought for eight hours but his body gave out…it was just too much.” 

She said he had been without oxygen for too long and his lungs were filled with too much water. 

“He just couldn’t do it.  But it was a gift in a way because we had eight hours to say goodbye,” Chang remembered tearfully. 

Chang said Child Protective Services (CPS) investigated, but then later told her it wasn’t the agency’s jurisdiction.  As the Changs dealt with the grief of losing their son, even more questions loomed. 

“That’s when it hit us, when we got home, that there’s no one to investigate and there was no one to give us answers because there’s no governing body in our state,” Chang said. 

Which brings us back to the Capitol, where the Changs have fought all year, as well as last legislative session, for the regulation of private swim schools under the Mitchell Chang Swim Safety Act. 

According to the Changs and Representative Steve Allison and Texas Senator Judith Zaffirini, the authors of the house and senate legislation, it would: 

• Apply to swim instruction operators for children under 7 years of age and instructed in groups of three or more 

• Require all swim instructors to be certified in CPR and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) use 

• Establish a searchable database that informs the public if an establishment is licensed or if it has open violations 

• Require the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to license the businesses 

• Set standards for student-to-instructor ratios 

• Require criminal background checks for employees who interact with students 

“It’s fair to say that parents assume there’s going to be appropriate supervision and capabilities to take care of any incident that might arise, and we found out here that’s not the case,” Rep. Allison said.  “I think there has been a mindset in Texas, and understandably so, that we don’t want to over-regulate, but here we have such a safety concern.  We put in very minimal provisions under the Department of Licensing and Regulation so that there would be a license fee and pretty strict training requirements.” 

KXAN reached out to associations and those who might be impacted by the law to get their perspectives on the requirements and how regulation would affect their industry, but they did not feel comfortable commenting on the proposed legislation.   

We will continue to follow the Mitchell Chang act through the legislature.  The bill did not move forward on the House’s deadline day.  Now its identical companion bill, SB 765, is waiting to be heard.  The session runs through May 29. 

KXAN also wanted to learn if other states had similar legislation on the books.  We found Georgia passed a bill that looks much like Mitchell’s bill. 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed what is now known as Izzy’s Law earlier this month.  Izzy Scott was a 4-year-old who died as a result of drowning during a backyard swim in a town near Augusta. Ga. in 2022.  Since it was just signed, there is no data yet to determine if the law has helped reduce drownings.