Missouri School District Wants Impunity for COVID Damage From Extracurriculars

A suburban school district just north of St. Louis, Missouri, has updated one of its waivers to parents of students involved in extracurricular activities, requiring them to relieve the district of any liability if their children contract coronavirus during school-sanctioned activities.

Hazelwood School District maintains that the waiver only applies to activities or sports that students are involved in outside of normal school hours, describing it as a standard release that parents have been asked to sign in the past.

“HSD doesn’t have a COVID-19 waiver for students to attend school in-person. Like all districts, we have a sports waiver that we issue to parents who want their kids to play sports,” the district said to Raw Story, which originally reported on the matter.

Yet in reading the actual copy of the waiver, the document goes beyond a typical release in one glaring way: it relieves the district of culpability if participants contract coronavirus.

Parents must recognize that government officials have declared a public health crisis, and that children will not be allowed to participate if they show symptoms of the disease. Students must refrain from the activities for two weeks, or demonstrate proof of a negative test result, before being allowed to participate again.

In two separate places, parents must also either initial or sign a statement stating that the district isn’t responsible for keeping their children free from coronavirus.

“I understand that the Hazelwood School District cannot prevent the possible transmission or contraction of COVID-19 for my child,” one portion of the document reads.

In another part, parents are forced, in a more direct manner, to sign-away any possibility that they could hold the school accountable for being neglectful.

By signing the document, parents acknowledge that they “release, discharge, hold harmless and indemnify” the school district and the board of education of any injuries from the program, including health matters that result in contracting or dying from COVID-19, “even if the cause, damages or injuries are alleged to be the fault of or alleged to be caused by the negligence or carelessness of the Releasees [the District],” the waiver states.

The current recommended plan for Hazelwood School District, if in the fall it becomes clear that schools cannot operate at full capacity due to spread of the disease, is to have students attend in-person on an alternating daily basis. Half the student body would go to classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, while the other half would go on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Days when students aren’t at school, including Fridays when no students would attend, would be virtual learning days.

Schools across the country are scrambling to decide what to do on myriad topics, including how to manage day-to-day learning as well as extracurricular activities. They are, in part, oftentimes being pressured by political forces to come up with plans for how to reopen, including from President Donald Trump, who last week blasted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for how schools can safely reopen as being too burdensome, in his personal opinion.

Earlier this summer, Trump’s presidential campaign itself also had rally goers planning to attend a campaign event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, sign a waiver requiring participants to agree not to hold accountable the campaign or the arena where the event occurred if they contracted coronavirus.

“By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury,” the online waiver read.