A Missouri school district is requiring the parents of student-athletes to sign a waiver that would absolve the district from legal liability if their children become infected and die from COVID-19 while participating in certain school programs.
The document, which critics on social media have described as a “death waiver,” pertains to students who participate in “athletics/activities” within the Hazelwood School District in St. Louis County, according to a copy of the waiver posted online.
Should something happen to such a student, the waiver states that the school district and its employees are exempt from liability “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 Releases.”
The school district, responding to complaints about the waiver on social media, argued that sports waivers for students are nothing new.
“Parents who want their child to participate in athletics are asked to sign a waiver. This year’s waiver includes language about COVID-19 to ensure that parents can make an informed decision,” the district said in a statement. It also pointed out that the waiver only applies to student-athletes, not to all students who attend in-person classes, as it said some news outlets had incorrectly reported.
The district issued its response Tuesday, the same day that Missouri broke its own single-day record for new COVID-19 cases. Similar single-day records were broken in St. Louis County, as well as in the neighboring St. Charles and Franklin counties, local station KSDK reported.
Missouri’s health department has said that, as of early July, there are no statewide health mandates related to K-12 school reopenings, though local school boards and jurisdictions are allowed to implement their own preventative measures. The Hazelwood School District has said that for classes this fall, it will offer students the option of attending virtual school 100% of the time or a “blended option” that includes both in-person and virtual classes.
COVID-19 waivers have increasingly been popping up, particularly among businesses, as more people try to go about their lives in a time of uncertainty and risk.
Turlock Unified Schools in California’s Central Valley issued a COVID-19 waiver to parents of student-athletes last month in an effort to protect itself from lawsuits ahead of summer workouts.
That waiver requires parents to “accept sole responsibility for any harm or loss” related to themselves or their children in connection with the school-sponsored activity, according to a copy of the waiver posted on the school district’s website.
A similar waiver issued to parents and student coaches in Florida’s Volusia County school district was withdrawn this week following questions and concerns from the local teachers union about its legality, The Palm Beach Post reported Tuesday.
President Donald Trump ― who has tried to downplay the seriousness of the coronavirus in spite of abundant warnings from the scientific community ― required people attending his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month to agree not to sue him or anyone else involved in the event if they contracted the virus and got sick or died.