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Content of SB 217 and Our Concerns


The following comments are offered as examples of why SB 217 as currently proposed is not in the best interests of the children and youth of California and have been complied by CCFY.  

By introducing the new concept of “recreational camps” and ignoring the long-accepted labels of “resident” camp (which are overnight camps) and “day” camp, the bill as drafted creates unnecessary confusion and proposes massive oversight expansion that will be impossible for local health departments to fulfill.

1. At Issue: Licensing (permitting) of day camps. 

Day camps are not currently included in the definition of organized camps under HSC §18897 or companion regulations. CCFY has sponsored numerous bills, with the full support of day camps, to add day camps to the definition of organized (resident) camps, and day camps support being required to meet all of the applicable requirements of resident camps. Opposition from those who run local health departments has consistently opposed these measures on the basis that doing so would expand the workload that would be required of local health departments. 

Recommendation: It is our position that SB 217 should include this provision. 


2. At Issue: Licensing “recreational camps” which includes every program serving children 17 years or younger that serves five children for five or more days per season.

This provision would mean the licensing (permitting) of tens of thousands of programs including soccer camps, football camps, tennis camps, art camps, music camps, vacation bible study camps, karate classes, dance classes, computer classes, sports clinics and other youth programs sponsored by colleges and universities, and hundreds of other programs with onerous and punitive operating requirements. 

Recommendation: We suggest adding day camps to the Organized Camp Act and making it clear the types of other programs that do not meet the day camp definition. Additionally, the imposition of a $1,250 fee would put a huge financial burden on community sports teams, classes and other activities serving children, especially where the activities are operated at no cost to the participant and in low-income areas. This cost could have a chilling effect on the operation of summer programs, classes, and activities around the state. This maximum cost would also limit health departments in their inspection of large organized camps that already pay a great deal more for their annual inspections, as they are currently charged whatever it costs the county to inspect them.  

Recommendation: Impose these fees on day camps only and do not cap the amount for inspection.


3. At Issue: SB 217 requires camp directors to have at least two years of previous experience working as administrative staff of a camp.

First, this experience requirement is unclear, and more importantly, this requirement would have the effect of requiring a camp director to have virtually unattainable experience since camps typically operate for three months out of the year. With three months of work credit per year, it would take eight years to meet this standard! 

Recommendation: Specify that camp directors should be at least 25 years of age and have two seasons of administrative or supervisory experience in camp activities, which is the current requirement


4. At Issue: The bill requires each counselor-in-training to have satisfactorily completed one season as a camper.

What is the purpose of this requirement? This is a training position, not a supervisory role.


Recommendation: Delete this requirement. 


5. At Issue: The bill specifies that cell phones can only be used by staff in the case of an emergency.

This provision is arbitrary and would not give staff the ability to call for additional equipment, snacks, more participants, transportation or any other request unless it was an emergency. 


Recommendation: Remove this provision from the bill. 


6. At Issue: The bill requires that a health director who is a licensed physician, certified nurse practitioner or physician assistant have documented pediatric training of at least two years.

These are licensed professionals and should not be required to have two years of specialized pediatric training prior to employment.  For day camps located in urban areas, access to an “on-call camp health director” and 911 should satisfy this definition.  Furthermore, the expansion of the health director definition should, at a minimum, conform to the requirements for commercial drivers which includes: “a U.S. licensed doctor of medicine (M.D.), doctor of osteopathy (D.O.), licensed physician assistant (P.A.), advanced practice registered nurse (A.P.R.N.), or doctor of chiropractic (D.C.) who is listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners ” as well as the provisions in the existing law.


Recommendation: Discuss and revise.


7. At Issue: Requirement that local health departments develop and oversee building standards.

§18897.7 Specifies that a camp shall not be operated unless each site or location in which a camp operates satisfies the minimum standards prescribed in State Building Standards Code and other rules adopted by the director and the State Fire Marshall. This presumably requires an inspection or multiple inspections of the thousands of sites used by camps, putting an unrealistic amount of work on local health departments. A violation of this section constitutes a misdemeanor, thereby creating a new crime.

Recommendation: Delete this requirement and allow camps to comply to building standards in the way they currently do, which is that buildings are inspected by the County Health Inspector during the camp's annual inspection.

8. At Issue: SB 217 requires local health departments to do one unannounced camp inspection and one scheduled inspection during the year, and possibly a third inspection for any number of reasons. 

Given that the majority of camps operate for only a few weeks during the summer or during school holiday periods, how are local health departments going to comply with this requirement? 


Recommendation: Require an initial inspection of a camp that is a first-time applicant and upon the receipt of a complaint otherwise. For camps continuing to operate, continue with the current inspection schedule. (annually either unscheduled or scheduled, depending on the county’s procedures). 


9. At Issue: SB 217 requires CPR certification and First Aid certification for aquatics directors and lifeguards but limits the time the certifications are valid to one year.

Certifications issued by the Red Cross, American Heart Association and equivalent programs are for a period of two years. This bill should not dictate the terms of certifications by qualified certifying organizations.


Recommendation: Specify that certification shall be valid as specified by the certification provider.


10. At Issue: The bill requires aquatic director and lifeguards to have 20/20 corrected vision or 20/40 corrected vision and to be physically sound.

This requirement will result in the dismissal of many aquatics directors and lifeguards and is a potential violation of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Additionally, the aquatics director’s job is managing, not necessarily active lifeguarding. The requirement for aquatics directors and lifeguards to be “physically sound” is not defined and could also be a violation of the ADA.


Recommendation: Remove these requirements.


11. At Issue: The bill requires the aquatics director to directly supervise all offsite activities.

This requirement limits operation of multiple activities running simultaneously.


Recommendation: Delete this provision or amend to allow a designated assistant aquatics director or “waterfront” director to provide this supervision.


12. At Issue: The creation of a Recreational Camp Safety Advisory Council.

The Council, which will make recommendations relating to recreational camp safety does not include a single organized camp representative. Only two members of the Council, out of seven appointees, will be so-called recreational camp representatives. 


Recommendation: Delete this provision.


13. At Issue: The bill requires that an aquatics director be 21 years of age, that they are a “camp certified lifeguard,” and that they possess one season of previous experience as a camp aquatics director, and at least 24 weeks of previous experience as a certified lifeguard. 

The position of aquatics director should be based on ability and experience, and not based on an arbitrary chronological determination. There is no such certification as a “camp certified lifeguard.’ The prior experience provisions cannot be met and preclude camps from promoting an aquatics director from within. 


Recommendation: Age should be specified as 18 or over, and the reference to camp certified lifeguard should be removed. Prior experience can be satisfied by one previous summer’s experience as a certified lifeguard.


14. At Issue: Bill Title “Roxie Rules” 

Our hearts go out to the bill sponsors, the Forbes family, but the camp where Roxie lost her life did not meet the current definition of an organized camp and using declarative language about her drowning as a preamble to SEC.3, Section 18897 is not appropriate. It would be much more appropriate to name the aquatics portion of the bill in her honor. Re-naming the aquatics section of the law that has been in place for more than 100 years and that describes what this section of law relates to, organized camps makes far better sense.   



  • The requirement for prior experience for camp counselors: It’s not practical to expect all counselors to have been junior counselors or to have prior experience as specified in SB 217.

  • Lifeguard experience: Hiring lifeguards who have had 12 weeks of prior experience would be nearly impossible. Lifeguards should have proper training and be competent to perform their duties.

  • The requirement that all children must be tested for swimming ability: It does not add to safety to force children to swim in natural bodies of water such as the ocean and mountain lakes, especially for non-swimmers.  Campers should be allowed to opt-out of swim testing and be designated as non-swimmers.  To force a non-swimmer to test actually puts them in considerably more danger in addition to creating trauma and embarrassment for weak swimmers or non-swimmers.

  • Pool headcount every three minutes, buddy counts every five minutes: These are excessive and interfere with swimming lessons.

  • Requirements that the camp offer every non-swimmer swim lessons and that every camp employ a certified Water Safety Instructor: WSI does not teach pool management or rescue procedures.  Although the title implies more, this is a swimming instructor.  Most camps stopped providing swim lessons many years ago due to the perennial lack of available WSI’s.

  • The requirement that anyone with a physical disability, or other disability, be deemed a non-swimmer: People who have physical disabilities are often more successful in the water.  The issue should be based on their skill level and their ability to follow directions, not on being disabled.

  • The requirement for pool cameras: Impractical, the camp operator may not own the pool, some sites do not have the capacity for cameras, science is not definitive regarding their effectiveness, monitoring the camera takes the operator away from pool activities, swimmer directions and swim lessons, and violates some camps’ religious/cultural concerns about body modesty. 

  • Non-swimmer ratios: Requiring a 1:5 ratio of lifeguards to non-swimmers will limit any camp’s swim program.  Requiring non-swimmers to wear Coast Guard approved PFD’s in a lifeguarded pool is not supported by experts in the field of aquatics safety such as the American Red Cross.

  • Requirements that horses be housed in stables is not possible.  Corrals should be sufficient.

  • Firearms: there is confusion around the motivation for a graduated age requirement around firearms (moving from BBs to pellets to bullets.) Since all firearms (including BB and pellet guns) are treated with respect and as though they were loaded, this requirement does not add safety.

  • Ziplines, challenge courses or other mechanical devices have been determined in the past not to need DOSH approval.

  • All camp staff to be trained in concussion protocol regardless of position.  Current law in CA has already been revised to provide concussion protocols for organized camps (AB 379 Chaptered 8/30/2019)



1. That SB 217 include a provision to add day camps to the Health and Safety Code as an organized camp that meets the applicable requirements of organized resident camps.

2. That the “Roxie’s Rules” designation be applied to the aquatics portion of the bill, and that that section of the bill be amended to make the operation of pools possible, practical and safe.

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