12/09/05 — School district still looking at form

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School district still looking at form

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 9, 2005 1:51 PM

A liability release form in Wayne County Public Schools is still under review, while a revised permission slip requiring health insurance seems to have squelched complaints, officials say.

The controversial form regarding off-campus field trips came under fire in October, just before it was to be voted on by the school board at its Oct. 3 meeting. After receiving numerous phone calls from parents upset about the language used in the release, the board tabled the vote pending further review.

Ken Derksen, public information officer for the school system, called the proposed policy a standard practice, reflective of what other school systems are doing.

"It was actually based on a military model release form," the type used for ROTC students when visiting a military installation, he said, adding that the local version was "not nearly as legalistic as far as the language."

The policy is being studied by the school system's attorney, Derksen said.

"It could come back and be rewritten, kept as it is, or may come back and say we don't really need this," he said. "There is no guarantee it will ever be put in place."

In its original form, the form had stressed that by signing it, a parent would "release and discharge forever" the school system and its affiliates from any blame for injury or damages that might occur during a school field trip. At the time, school officials maintained the policy was being updated and the changes designed to protect the school system from legal responsibility.

Another permission form that also came under fire required parents to provide proof of health insurance. Some parents called the requirement discriminatory, especially for families unable to afford insurance.

Some revisions have been made to the form, Derksen said.

The form requests such information as emergency phone numbers, allergies, medical conditions and medications being taken. It also asks whether the child is covered under an accident policy, personal insurance or medical services. In cases where the family has no health insurance, the form states that the parent agrees to be fully responsible for all uninsured expenses for medical services and treatment resulting from any accident or injury during the field trip.

The two-page form also seeks special permission in cases where the field trip might include swimming or aquatic activities. It asks whether or not the student is able to swim and then whether he has permission to participate in aquatic activities.

Derksen said that school officials are working hard to eliminate any confusion and ultimately want every child to be able to attend educational field trips.

"This basically allows us to know if something did happen, that they would be covered," he said. "There's nowhere that says the child can't go on a field trip if they don't have insurance." In fact, the school system has actually worked to help some families in need to obtain insurance, he said.

Rewriting the language on the health-related form has proved favorable, Derksen said.

"Since they changed the insurance part and it was sent home to parents, we have had absolutely no complaints," he said. "It pretty much covers what we're needing."