The Lambton Kent District School Board in southwestern Ontario has temporarily banned high jump at its elementary schools and limited the event at the high school level following the death of a student.
The temporary ban comes after Grade 12 student Josiah Grant, who was competing in Smiths Falls in eastern Ontario, was seriously injured after high jumping, and then missing his landing on the safety mat. He later died in hospital.
Grant, 17, died about a month ago, at Kingston General Hospital, a day after the incident, according to the Upper Canada District School Board.
It was initially thought Grant suffered only scrapes and bruises. He later slipped into a coma and died.
Jim Costello, director of education for the Lambton Kent board, said "a few students have missed the mat when they landed" in his district too.
"There has been some concern over the past few years from principals," Costello said. "So, we decided to put a pause on high jump ... to see if we can make it safer."
The board eliminated high jump at the elementary school level, including during physical education classes and for competitive track teams.
Overall safety a concern
Track coaches at the elementary level are volunteers — some without any coaching experience or certification, Costello said.
When it came to physical education in the schools, Costello said, the decision was a matter of overall safety.
"In a phys-ed class, where we’re asking all kids to do it, we have the responsibility to ensure the event is administered safely," Costello said.
He said the board may soon be offering more training to elementary school track coaches.
"We need to do it safely and provide quality instruction," Costello said.
At the high school level, high jump has been removed from phys-ed classes. Students can still compete on extracurricular, competitive school track teams.
"Most of our secondary school track coaches have considerable track background. We felt there was sufficient expertise there to run the event safely," Costello said.
Jamie Adjetey-Nelson is a former member of the University of Windsor Lancer track team. He also won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Adjetey-Nelson, whose first field event was high jump, said he understands why the board made the decision.
"There are not a lot of coaches who specialize in high jump," he said.
Costello and Adjetey-Nelson both also said crash mats are expensive. Costello said some schools don't have enough mats.