Although the school year has not yet started, student athletes are already back on some college campuses for pre-season training. Several colleges have asked or required these students to sign liability waivers stating that the students will not sue the college if they get coronavirus. As reported in Sports Illustrated, Indiana University, Ohio State, Southern Methodist University, the University of Iowa and other schools asked athletes to sign such waivers before beginning on-campus workouts.
The aforementioned Sports Illustrated article stated that athletes who refuse to sign such waivers or who don’t follow their stipulations could be cut from their teams and/or lose their athletic scholarships.
In response, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Cory Booker introduced a bill in late June to prohibit colleges from forcing student athletes to sign COVID-19 liability waivers. According to CBS Sports, the bill states:
- “An institution shall not allow any individual to agree to a waiver of liability regarding the coronavirus.
- An institution shall not cancel a scholarship or financial aid for a player who refuses to participate because of concerns regarding the coronavirus.
- An institution shall inform all athletes at the school when an athlete or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. The person who tests positive does not have to be identified.
- An institution will make sure the athletic department adheres to COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.”
Even if you’re not a student-athlete, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about a COVID-19 liability waiver. At some colleges, all students are being asked to sign a waiver. If that’s the case at the school you attend or are planning to attend, should you sign?
In an op-ed in the L.A. Times, a Georgetown University law professor stated unequivocally that you should not. She wrote that even if a waiver is not required, some colleges may argue that by coming onto campus, students are assuming risk and absolving the college of any liability. She advised that in addition to refusing to sign a waiver, “any employee or student who plans to be on a campus this fall should also inform supervisors, deans, presidents, and in-house counsel in writing that showing up does not imply any release of the institution’s legal responsibility to take reasonable measures against causing illness, including COVID-19.”
Regardless of whether your or your child’s college is asking students to sign a waiver, I recommend that all students and parents read the the L.A. Times article using the link above. The author does not offer any advice on what to do if a college says that refusal to sign a waiver means you will not be allowed onto campus. For questions about this, I suggest consulting an attorney.