Regular readers of this blog know that my pet peeve is requiring people to sign waivers of liability to participate in activities, and that I particularly despise them for children's activities. Of course I am thrilled that my kids can attend summer camps this summer -- but that thrill is diminished by the camps telling me that they refuse to take responsibility for their own negligence. If I want my kids to go to camp, I need to accept that if they get hurt they will have no recourse, even if the fault was entirely the camp's. Paralyzed for life because the camp's bus driver was drunk? Oh well.
The waiver that really got my blood boiling this week begins with the following (the camp will remain nameless to protect . . . everyone):
Our work would not be possible without a covenant of trust between you (the parents and guardians of our students), and us (the staff and teachers at the camp).
So far so good. I am happy to trust the camp to be responsible for the well-being of my child. Naturally that responsibility includes if the camp makes a mistake and my child is injured as a result.
The release continues:
By enrolling your child in this program, you will be asking us to care for their personal physical and emotional needs, while at the same time creating a safe, nurturing student community and providing fun and appropriate challenges and adventures.
Yes! This camp sounds awesome!
This is a wilderness camp and the waiver goes on to list all the potentially dangerous things that entails, from stubbed toes while walking barefoot to getting hit by a falling tree branch.
The waiver requires me to release the camp from all liability for risk of harm inherent in the camp activities. I'm okay with that.
But then the waiver also requires me to release the camp from all liability for risk of "other" harm -- meaning harm that is not inherent in the activities. That's outrageous.
As I've often said, if my child is participating in a gymnastics program I am happy to waive any liability the program may have if my child is injured as a result of falling off a balance beam. That risk is inherent in the sport of gymnastics and you cannot participate in gymnastics without taking that risk.
But I am not happy to waive my child's rights if they are injured as a result of a balance beam falling on them. That is not an inherent risk of participating in gymnastics, and if it happens the program needs to take responsibility.
How does the program protect both my child and itself? It buys liability insurance.
Mistakes happen, even in the best programs. If a camp wants to enter into a "covenant of trust" with me, as it writes in its waiver form, it can show that it has my child's best interests at heart by buying adequate liability insurance, not by requiring me to give up my child's rights.