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Missouri school district under fire after coronavirus 'liability waiver' goes viral

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.

Missouri school district under fire after coronavirus 'liability waiver' goes viral
Cover Image Source: Hazelwood School District

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.



 

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.



 

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.



 

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.



 

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.



 

 



 

 



 

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.

 



 

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