Annals of Health Law
use shock-absorbing materials in the pit.25 The YMCA argued, and the court
agreed, that it could not be held negligent because the plaintiff had relieved
the YMCA of any duty owed to her by consenting to an obvious risk of injury
inherent in participating in such an activity.26
Some legal experts believe the risk of negligence claims against schools is
exaggerated.27 Empirical evidence suggests, however, that lawsuits against
schools may be more frequent than some would suspect. For example, data
from the 2006 School Health Policies and Programs Study revealed that 33%
of school districts and 11.8% of individual schools reported being sued for
alleged negligence due to an injury occurring on school property or at an off-campus, school-sponsored event.28 The case of Lundstrom v. City of Apple
Valley (1998) provides an example of a negligence claim in the context of
shared use.29 In Lundstrom, a city was sued for an injury that occurred on a
tennis court in a multi-purpose sports facility jointly owned by the city and
the school district.30 After the initial trial and appeal, the Minnesota Court of
Appeals found that the city was entitled to immunity under the state’s
recreational user statute.31
IV. CURRENT ENVIRONMENT OF LEGAL PROTECTIONS FOR SCHOOLS
Each state has statutes and case law that outline and interpret the duties
and liability protections of school districts and school personnel.32
Understanding the legal landscape of each individual state, however, can be
complicated. When considering which laws outline the duties of schools and
26. Id. at 105-06.
27. See Tom Baker & Hania Masud, Liability Risks for After-Hours Use of Public School
Property to Reduce Obesity: A 50-State Survey, 80 J. SCH. HEALTH 508, 513 (2010); see
generally P.J. Maher et al., Governmental and Official Immunity for School Districts and Their
Employees: Alive and Well?, 19 KANSAS J. L. & PUB. POL’Y 234, 249 (2010).
28. The School Health Policies and Practices Study (SHPPS) is a national survey
conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approximately every six years
to assess school health policies and practices at the state, district, school, and classroom levels.
See generally Sherry Everett Jones et al., Healthy and Safe School Environment, Part I:
Results from the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2006, 77 J. SCH. HEALTH 522,
528, 536 (2007).
29. See Lundstrom v. City of Apple Valley, 587 N. W.2d 517, 519 (Minn. Ct. App. 1998).
30. Id. at 518-19.
31. Id. at 520.
32. See, e.g., Massachusetts has laws that outline how communities can use school
property (MASS. GEN. LAWS ANN. ch. 71, § 71; & ch. 71, § 71B (West, Westlaw Next through
Ch. 3 of the 2013 1st Annual Session)), as well as liability protections for schools (MASS. GEN.
LAWS ANN. ch. 21, § 17C; & ch. 258, § 10 (West, Westlaw Next through Ch. 3 of the 2013 1st
Annual Session)). Mississippi recently passed legislation to incorporate school district
expectations and liability protections (MISS. CODE ANN. § 37-171-7 (2013)).