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School sports waivers. They're required at countless middle and high schools across the country. Your kid can't participate in football or softball, tennis or track without one. And like most parents, you've probably just signed on the dotted line without a second thought.
Was this the right move?
Or do these waivers relieve school districts of any and all responsibility for your child's safety?
Fortunately, they do not. School sports waivers only preclude you from suing your child's school for a physical injury arising out of the sporting activity. Depending on the waiver, it may also include any claims arising from the negligent supervision or transportation of your child while he or she attends a sporting practice or event.
What school sports waivers don't do is release the school district from injuries caused by gross negligence. Gross negligence goes one step further than mere negligence -- it's marked by a failure to exercise any care at all. It often occurs when the responsible individual deliberately or recklessly acts in a way that he knew, or should have known, was very likely to cause harm.
Courts across the country generally refuse to apply liability waivers to gross negligence. They find that such an application would violate public policy by encouraging individuals to act without consideration for others.
This is a good thing for you and your child, as it encourages school districts to take steps to ensure your child's safety. A school that does nothing can be sued for gross negligence, whereas a school that tries to protect students but fails can generally avoid liability.
Whether or not this makes you more comfortable with signing a school sports waiver is a personal determination. Regardless, remember to read the entire waiver the next time your kid brings you one.