COVID-19 Liability Waiver Considerations for Schools
As we head into the 2020-2021 school year, the health and safety of students, educators, school staff and families is top priority. Many schools are facing the difficult decision of whether or not to resume in-person classes. There are a number of things to consider, which we’ve outlined in our Considerations for In-Person School During COVID-19 blog.
In addition to the mitigation strategies of social distancing, hand-hygiene and disinfection to use when schools are open, the GuideOne Risk Management team feels that waivers may be useful in some jurisdictions and each school should review with their local legal counsel to determine if they should introduce a waiver.
If your school decides to introduce a waiver, there are a few factors you should consider:
- The waiver should be part of the registration process and collected for each student. A waiver is only effective if it is signed by the student’s parent or legal guardian.
- Have your legal counsel review your waiver, as the laws relating to effective releases vary by state. Ensure your legal counsel also assists you with developing a template document that can be used to outline the risk associated with each activity and that has appropriate language releasing your organization from liability.
- Make sure your waivers are part of a document retention program. The statute of limitations can be extensive when it comes to the types of claims brought on by activities, and it does no good to have a signed release if you cannot produce it during discovery. Work with your legal counsel to determine how long you must keep signed waivers; and, store them in a secure, easily-accessible location.
- The waiver should be specific to your organization and include the following:
- A declaration from the parent or legal guardian that the student has not been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or a diagnosis for at least 14 days.
- An agreement from the parent or legal guardian that they will conduct a health check of each child every day prior to school and will keep any child home if exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, including a fever over 100 degrees, difficulty breathing, sore throat, cough, loss of taste or a headache.
- An agreement that a student with symptoms will not attend school for at least seven days after the symptoms have subsided or until the presentation of a negative COVID test.
- An agreement from the parent or legal guardian (and student in the case of older children) that each student will follow all infectious disease protocols, which may include wearing masks, social distancing and alternate traffic-flows in school hallways.
- An assumption of risk and waiver of liability relating to COVID-19 that states that the school will take reasonable measures to limit the spread of infection, but cannot guarantee the safety of any individual from the infection.
© 2021 The GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.