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Mukilteo School District Athletic Risk and Liability Training for Coaches and Athletic Directors

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  1. Mukilteo School District Athletic Risk and Liability Training for Coaches and Athletic Directors August 26, 2012 Kamiak High School Commons David Jacobson, Director of Student Services and Athletics

  2. Objectives for today • Liability exposures • Reasonableness, foreseeability and duties owed to student athletes • Equipment and facilities exposures • Transportation issues in athletics • Illegal and improper conduct

  3. Liability Exposures • Negligent Acts • Unintentional errors in performing employment duties • Examples: failure to supervise, failure to maintain equipment • Criminal Acts • Violation of Criminal Codes cannot be covered by insurance • Examples: sexual misconduct, failure to report, assault and battery • Intentional Acts • May be criminal • Are not be covered by insurance • Examples: intentional disregard, discrimination

  4. Personal Liability for Coaches • Failure to report criminal sexual conduct • Transporting students in your personal vehicle • Physical or sexual assault of student or others • Participating with students in non-school district sponsored activities

  5. Duties Owed to Student Athletes • Proper supervision & instruction • Safe equipment & facilities • Warn of inherent risks of the individual sport • Foresee danger and warn • Provide for emergency health care • Transport athletes safely

  6. Duties breached and No possible defense • During a baseball game, a 15-year old slid head-first into home plate sustaining a neck fracture, which resulted in quadriplegia. Plaintiff claimed defendant negligently failed to provide an ongoing safety program to teach safe sliding techniques and to warn of the dangers of head-first sliding. Settlement for $2 million • ************* • Coaches setup a tackling drill which positioned a tackler and a ball carrier 10 to 12 yards apart, instructing them to run full speed directly at each other. Both players were known by coaches as hard hitters. Players and coaches watched the hit which resulted in a 14-year old being rendered a quadriplegic. The plaintiff, who was the carrier, had never been taught how to carry the ball. • Settlement for $6.25 million

  7. Duty to Supervise • Most common allegation in claims and litigation against staff • If you can’t see them, you’re not supervising them • Field, gym, locker room, weight room, transportation, classroom, away games • Impulsive behavior of the teenage brain • Co-ed teams • Locker rooms • Unlocked rooms

  8. Duty to instruct and train • Students must demonstrate understanding of proper techniques and risks • Documenttraining and Progression of Skills plans • Enforce safety rules without exceptions • Watch for and prohibit students from playing with injuries • Provide proper conditioning to prepare the athlete • Don’t forget to train your volunteers and keep current on your certifications

  9. Duty to warn of inherent risks • Document warning to parents and athletes of inherent risks unique to each individual sport (forms can be found on school and district website) • Obtain signed acknowledgement from parent and athlete • Warn when there are changes in equipment, rules, techniques and strategy • Document time, place, subject and method • Inherent Risk and Permission Forms • Meetings • Training Plans

  10. Fitness of Athletes and Insurance • Courts have held that coaches have the duty to acknowledge the athletes’ • physical fitness, medical condition and skill level • Require physicals before any practice starts • Require evidence of medical insurance • Provide “no-fault” catastrophic coverage for interscholastic athletic activities

  11. Duty to Provide Safe Facilities • Regularly scheduled and documented site inspections • Simple checklists with name, date, location and specific subjects (forms are available on Athletics District website) • Formalized reporting and repairing procedures • Coordinate with Facilities and Maintenance Department(s) • Prompt repair of hazardous conditions • Document your requests for repairs

  12. Duty to provide safe equipment • Properly fit equipment for each athlete • Perform routine equipment inspection - watch for “customizing” • Schedule repairs by qualified personnel only • Retain all inspection, maintenance and destruction records • Use District issued equipment only • Destroy old equipment that is not to be reused (e.g. football helmets)

  13. Match competitors • Match player to player and player to activity • Coaches must never scrimmage against players • Factors for matching competitors: • Height and Weight • Age and Maturity • Skill and Experience • Mental State • Injury, Fatigue or Incapacity

  14. Duty to provide emergency medical care • When in doubt, call 911! • Current training in First Aid/CPR/AEDs • Adequate First Aid supplies • Do not have another student transport the injured athlete • Report injuries to parents and to the A.D. or administrator immediately • Require written medical clearance prior to return to play

  15. Concussion and other injury exposures • Is there a school district-wide “Return to Play” procedure? • Are coaches, assistants and volunteers trained in concussion recognition? • Do not rely on athlete or parent opinions that athlete is “OK” • If an injury is suspected, athlete must be removed from play and practice • Ultimate decision on return to play is yours • Concussion forms and information are available at WIAA.org

  16. RCW 28A.600.190 (Lystedt requirements) • Annual dissemination and retention of signed concussion and head injury information sheet prior to play or practice • Any athlete suspected of having or having a concussion or head injury must be removed from play or practice immediately • No return to play until written clearance is supplied by a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussion

  17. Allowed licensed health care professionals • All must be trained in the evaluation and management of concussion • WIAA approved practitioners: • Medical Doctors (MD) • Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) • Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) • Physicians Assistants (PA) • Certified Athletic Trainers • No other health care professionals are allowed to clear for return to play

  18. RCW 28A.600.190 Limited immunity for facility owner • Do not use facilities without proper permissions and paperwork • Include concussion recognition rules in your Facility Use Agreement • Facility owner must: • Have user provide proof of insurance with minimum limits of $50,000 single / $100,000 aggregate prior to use of facility • Have the user provide a statement of compliance with the policies for the management of concussion and head injury prior to use

  19. Record keeping for Injured Athletes • Think defensively • Communicate with school nurse regarding Individual Health Plans • A minor can file a claim or suit up to age 21 • Keep all records relating to a significant injury • The district may send injury records to the insurance carrier for safekeeping

  20. Records retention recommendations • Health/Physical exams • Signed parental consent-to-play and Inherent Risk forms • Injury forms and Return-to-play/Doctor’s clearance(LYSTEDT LAW) • Practice plans, equipment fittings and team or parent meeting agendas • Facility and equipment inspection/maintenance • Use of alternative transportation

  21. Transportation issues • School buses are the safest mode of transportation • Vans must have a capacity of ten or under • Communicate “Parents will be responsible for transportation” in writing if no district transportation is provided • Never arrange car-pools (leave it to the parents) • Require parent signature if athlete is to be released to parent rather than traveling back with team • Never transport students alone in your car

  22. Summer camps and activities • School sponsored, private non-profit or for-profit? • Schools must fully embrace it or completely divorce itself • No such thing as “partially school sponsored” • Coaching staff may be outside of job description and District coverage • Coaching staff may be individually liable for summer camp injuries • Cannot require attendance in order to play during season • WIAA violation • WAC 181-87-090 Improper remunerative conduct and unprofessional conduct

  23. Zero Tolerance of Prohibited behavior • Hazing • Bullying; Board Policy 3216 & 3216-P • Sexual Misconduct and Inappropriate Boundary Invasion; Board Policy 5026 & 5026-P • Sexual Harassment, Hostile Environment and Retaliation; Board Policy 3214 & 3214-P • Discrimination - age, gender, ethnic, religion, sexual orientation, disability

  24. Mandatory reporters • All certified and classified employees must report suspected sexual abuse to their Administrator immediately • RCW 28A400.317 • All Administrators have 48 hours to report the suspected sexual abuse to local law enforcement • RCW 28A.400.317 • Failure to report is a separate crime

  25. GROOMING and INAPPROPRIATE BOUNDARY INVASION RED FLAGS • “Board Policy 5026 & 5026-P • Special Relationship” with a student • Socializing with the student • Electronic communication with individual student or athlete • Are actions reasonable or with an educational purpose?

  26. Summary • Some injuries are preventable, others are not • Less time, energy and resources are expended in prevention than recovery • If there is a serious incident, you will spend far more time with insurance adjusters and attorneys, in depositions and in court • Coaches are responsible for the supervision of the student athletes and the volunteers • Think ahead and act defensively

  27. Questions? • David Jacobson Director of Student Services & Athletics 425.356.1276 JacobsonDD@mukilteo.wednet.edu http://www.mukilteo.wednet.edu/departments/athletics/