In light of the current pandemic, the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) recently provided guidelines for districts to consider as athletic programs resume. Several districts have contacted us about the implementation of these guidelines. Set forth below are items we recommend districts address in conjunction with Phase 1 of the guidelines. This list is not exhaustive, and we encourage each district to determine how its financial resources and its number of students will impact the district’s ability to mitigate the health and legal risks associated with the resumption of athletics.
- Requiring completed Assumption of Risk forms for each sport and each athlete/parent or guardian.
- Performing daily health screening for each athlete, coach, and other staff member by a health care professional or designated employee.
- Performing daily temperature checks for each athlete, coach, and staff member by a healthcare professional or designated employee.
- Documenting and logging all daily screenings and temperature checks.
- Creating a checklist that must be completed by a coach or staff member daily for each student prior to athletic participation.
- Mandating that student athletes notify their coaches or other appropriate staff member of any changes in their health.
- Requiring student athletes to bring a personal water bottle and wear a face mask to all practices.
- Limiting personal contact among students such as huddles, high-fives, handshaking, fist-bumping, and chest-bumping while also being mindful districts cannot ban personal contact in one sport but permit it in others to avoid violating Title IX.
- Staggering the start and end times for team workouts to avoid having large numbers of athletes in the same location at the same time.
- Disallowing or limiting spectators to observing from specific locations away from students.
- Sanitizing shared athletic uniforms and gear.
It is important districts proactively prepare for the uncertainty that is approaching. Unfortunately, it is likely lawsuits will be filed in cases where a student or staff member contracts COVID-19 while participating in athletics. While most of these suits will be unsuccessful for various reasons, districts should be aware national trends indicate that insurers may not cover the defense of these cases. Accordingly, districts should implement proper protocols and maintain the associated documentation to defend against COVID-19 suits.
As an initial step, we have drafted an Assumption of Risk form for your review and use as you see fit. If your district needs additional assistance as you prepare for the upcoming athletic season, White & Story is available to develop documents and answer any questions you may have.