Safe Routes Scoop
Concerned with Liability? SRTS Can Help

According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, to establish liability for negligence an injured party must show that a school owed a legal duty of care to the victim, that the school breached that duty, and that the breach was the proximate cause of the damage or injury. A school will not ordinarily be held liable for injuries sustained by children while they are walking or bicycling to school simply because the school encourages children to walk and bike. However, according to Tammy Sufi of the Toole Design Group, where schools do get into trouble is when they break their own policies. For example, Walk to School Day events with school staff acting as chaperones should be treated like other school-sponsored activities occurring off of school property, and all rules, policies, or protocols should be followed. If it is school policy to require permission slips from guardians for field trips, they should be required for Walk to School events occurring off school property as well.

 

Questions of liability are situational and can rarely be answered in absolute terms. All entities involved should consult with an attorney before implementing an organized program. Nevertheless, encouraging and promoting walking and biking alone should not expose schools to additional liability. All parties also need to be reminded that many students are already walking and biking to school without any formal policy or

program, and that liability exists in some form for virtually all student activities and modes of transport. Schools have a duty of care at the start, during, and end of school. Schools may not be able to eliminate liability, but they can reduce it by incorporating the recommended procedures of the SRTS program into a school’s risk management process.

 

* The information in this article is not intended as legal advice and should not be used as such. For more information on liability, see the National Center for Safe Routes to School’s “10 Tips for Safe Routes to School Programs and Liability” tip sheet at http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/
resources/program-development_tip-sheets.cfm

 

 

 

i For more information about developing a School Travel Plan see “Develop a Basic Travel Plan For Your School” and “Travel Plan Guide” at http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/
community/srts/started.shtm

 

 

ii http://www.saferoutestoschools.org/
Pressroom/WalkWLawyer.shtml

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