The controversial waiver requires parents to relinquish their rights to hold the district liable even if a child's death is "alleged to be caused by the negligence of carelessness" of the school staff.
A school district in Missouri has come under fire online after a 'Waiver of Liability' issued to parents of students who want to participate in sports and other special activities went viral. The document—deemed a COVID-19 'death' waiver by netizens—requires parents to acknowledge that "federal and state government officials have declared that there currently exists a public health crisis in our country related to the Coronavirus Disease 2019" and to relinquish their rights to hold the district liable even if a child's death is "alleged to be caused by the negligence of carelessness" of the school staff.
A Missouri public school district sent this “liability waiver” for parents if their child gets sickness/death resulting from being in school. Thoughts? pic.twitter.com/X7Z336AqPv— Natasha Scruggs🌹 (@AttorneyScruggs) July 14, 2020
The waiver went viral after it was shared online by attorney Natasha Scruggs, an alumnus of the Hazelwood School District, which issued the document. A Missouri public school district sent this “liability waiver” for parents if their child gets sickness/death resulting from being in school. Thoughts? she tweeted. The waiver states: I confirm that I will not permit my child to participate in the program or activity if, at any time during the program or activity, my child is showing any symptoms of COVID-19 (including but not limited to fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pains). Additionally, I confirm that I will not permit my child to participate in the program or activity if, at any time during the program or activity, my child has been in contact with any individual diagnosed with COVID-19 or any individual currently waiting for test results confirming the possibility of a COVID-19 diagnosis.
As somebody who not only lives in MO but the very same public school district?— Mr. Ben (@Drakengarde) July 14, 2020
This sickens me. Horribly.
I saw something similar from the Utah here and I had hoped beyond hope that we wouldn't have needed something like that.
To see that we have...I simply have no words. pic.twitter.com/NOlCVPy7HI
I agree that in such situations my child will be unable to participate in the program or activity until 14 calendar days after the symptoms first appeared and my child is no longer showing any symptoms, or a healthcare provider has confirmed in writing that my child has tested negative for COVID-19 or that my child’s symptoms were not due to COVID-19, it adds. Although the conditions mentioned here are pretty straightforward, it's the language that follows that has stirred up controversy online.
Districts are preparing for the inevitable spread and possible covid deaths as a result of reopening schools.— Benjamin Dixon (@BenjaminPDixon) July 14, 2020
Another liability waiver being sent to parents in case of sickness/death as a result of Covid-19 transmitted during school activities. This time from Walthall County, MS pic.twitter.com/81QqAz4WD8
I understand that the Hazelwood School District cannot prevent the possible transmission or contraction of COVID-19 for my child, it states. The undersigned agrees to release, discharge, hold harmless and indemnify the Hazelwood School District, it’s agents, employees, officers, Board of Education members, insurers and others acting on the District’s behalf (the Releasees”), of and from any and all claims, demands, causes of action and/or legal liabilities for injuries to or death of my child occurring during, or resulting from, or participation in the above-mentioned program or activity and related in any way to 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.
Why is the Hazelwood Schol District, in the second section of the waiver, holding the parent liable for preventing their child from getting people sick, when the school district itself doesn't want to be held liable if a faculty member gets a child sick?— Shannon Lee (@Shalee727) July 14, 2020
Speaking to Raw Story—which first reported the story—Scruggs said she felt sick reading the document. The school district quickly addressed the rising tensions online in an exchange with the attorney on Twitter but appeared to sidestep the main concerns voiced in regards to the waiver. This is a false story. 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. It includes language about COVID-19 so parents can make informed decisions, it tweeted. However, when asked about the explicit language used in the waiver, the school district failed to provide concrete answers.
2/2 This year, the waiver includes language about COVID-19 so parents can make informed decisions. If you share your email address, we can send you the official waiver.— Hazelwood School District (@HazelwoodSD) July 14, 2020
Your tweet and the news story that followed presents the waiver as a requirement to attend in-person school. It's not. We're working very hard to share accurate information with our families so they can make informed decisions. Misleading tweets, stories don't help our families.— Hazelwood School District (@HazelwoodSD) July 14, 2020
We're not engaging in public relations. We're engaging in sharing accurate information. We conducted a survey & series of public forums & parents wanted an in-person school option & a 100% virtual option. We have provided both. Please correct your tweet. The truth matters.— Hazelwood School District (@HazelwoodSD) July 14, 2020
The Hazelwood School District later issued an official statement on its website, in which it stated that "some inaccurate information about a waiver was shared by multiple media outlets today." There is no COVID-19 waiver for parents who select the education option that includes in-person school, it stated. 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 waiver was created by the Missouri United School Insurance Council (MUSIC). All school districts that are covered by MUSIC will use a similar waiver for athletics. No students are required to participate in athletics.
Our district has implemented unprecedented safety precautions in all of our buildings; however, it is important for parents to understand that school districts can only mitigate the risk of COVID-19. No district, organization, or business can offer 100% protection against exposure to a global pandemic. Visit the Centers for Disease Control website for more information about COVID-19.