TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As businesses lean on COVID-19 liability waivers as they reopen in Arizona, you may receive one from your school district before your student can return to campus.
The Arizona School Risk Retention Trust provides insurance coverage to nearly 250 public school and community college districts. In a statement to KOLD News 13, a spokesperson said an optional waiver is intended as a tool to help districts make fiscally prudent decisions necessary to bring students and teachers back to school safely.
“I was really shocked, almost disturbed and kinda disappointed in my daycare,” said Sara Thompson.
Thompson’s son, Logan, went to the Tucson Unified School District’s Schumaker Infant and Early Learning Center before the coronavirus started to the spread the community. Upon reopening, the district limited services to families of first responders and has since expanded to children of essential workers.
To return, Thompson had to fill out a new required form for Logan to return.
“It’s kinda scary to think about as a parent,” said Thompson.
The ‘waiver, release, and assumption of risk form’ starts with virus-related terms. Parents or legal guardians would sign on behalf of their child, knowingly and voluntarily accept, any and all risks associated with childcare on a school campus
“When I first saw it, I thought maybe I was reading wrong,” Thompson added,
The waiver included “although the children and staff/volunteers may have their temperatures taken when entering the Enrichment Center, that precaution is not nearly adequate to prevent the spread of COVID-19, given, among other things, the long incubation period, and the fact that many infected persons are asymptomatic. I understand and voluntarily assume the risk that my child may acquire COVID-19, and that COVID-19 may subsequently be transmitted from my child to me, my family, and members of my household”.
As Thompson continued to read, she felt the waiver went too far.
“Dismembered, dies, unwantingly touched... the bottom two paragraphs is where, like I said, it gets a little shady,” said Thompson. “They’re taking advantage of the parents.”
A spokesperson for the TUSD said a parent or legal guardian must complete the registration packet and sign paperwork, which includes the waiver, in order for the child to attend the program.
“My whole family, they work, so I have to make the decision. I can’t afford not to go to work, but I can’t also not afford to send him to daycare. It’s a hard decision no matter what you do and neither one of them is right,” said Thompson. “I’m stuck with a rock and a hard place and I’m not going to sign the paper,” said Thompson.
A COVID-19 liability waiver is something we’ve seen more businesses turn to as they reopen to reduce the risk of a lawsuit.
But, will a jury think that liability waiver is enforceable?
“The answer, in Arizona at least, is rarely. Doesn’t mean that they’re not. That they’re hard to enforce those,” said Marc Lamber, head of the Fennemore Craig personal injury department.
“I want people to read everything that they sign, for one, but also, a daycare should not be having a parent sign something like that,” said Thompson.
Full statement from the Arizona School Risk Retention Trust:
“School districts across the U.S. are grappling with the issue of coverage related to COVID-19 liability. The Trust’s reinsurers informed us earlier this year that they would be excluding COVID liability claims from their coverage for the Trust. Without this protection against potentially catastrophic losses, the Trust had no choice but to follow suit and exclude COVID liability claims from coverage for the members effective July 1, 2020. The Trust - like most organizations - had not anticipated COVID and had not collected contributions (or premiums) that would pay for that kind of coverage. Part of the Trust’s responsibility is to alert its members of the coverage exclusion.
It is important to understand that while coverage does not currently exist, the Trust has developed a solution that will make coverage available to member districts. Next Tuesday, the solution will be presented to the Trust’s board of directors. We expect it will receive their approval.”