Annals of Health Law
potentially provide immunity protection from liability, it is necessary to look
at a state’s constitution, statutes, and court cases interpreting the laws. Many
states limit negligence liability of school districts and other local units of
government, usually by a statute that provides partial protection from
liability.33 The existence of such a statute, however, does not prevent
negligence lawsuits from being brought in the first place, nor does it negate
the costs of defending such claims.34 Also, state laws vary by the degree of
protections and types of coverage afforded schools and school personnel.35
In addition to state laws that provide partial immunity from liability, some
states limit the amount of damages that can be collected in certain
situations.36 Additionally, schools can further minimize their liability risks
by properly inspecting and maintaining their facilities, having proper
insurance coverage, requiring community groups to have insurance, and
entering into written joint use agreements.37
V. RATIONALE FOR AHA POLICY GUIDANCE ON SCHOOL RECREATIONAL
Despite existing legal protections and individual actions to reduce liability
risk, there remains a need to offer liability protections where recreational use
of school property occurs outside of regular school hours. State laws are
complex, vary on the ways in which they protect school districts that open
their school property for community recreational use after hours, and do not
always protect all the necessary agencies or persons (e.g., school districts,
school administrators, and school employees such as supervisors and
custodial staff).38 School districts often have to look at a patchwork of laws
when attempting to determine what their legal duty of care is in a specific
33. See, e.g., MINN. STAT. § 466.03, subd. 6e (2012) (providing liability protection for
municipalities for injuries occurring).
34. Several published and unpublished appellate court cases in Minnesota find the school
district immune under MINN. STAT. § 466.03, subd. 6e. See, e.g., Prokop v. Independent School
Dist. No. 625, 754 N. W.2d 709 (Minn. Ct. App. 2008), Goetz v. Independent School Dist. No.
625, St. Paul Schools, 2009 WL 22270 (Minn. Ct. App. 2009), and Linton v. Independent
School Dist. No. 196, 1996 WL 104745, (Minn. Ct. App. 1996).
35. SeePUBLICHEALTHLAWCENTER,ELIMINATINGBARRIERS FORCOMMUNITY
RECREATIONAL USE OF SCHOOL PROPERTY: POLICY GUIDANCE ON LIABILITY AND SHARED USE
1-2 (2012) available at http://publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/resources/phlc-fs-
shareduse-samplestatute-language-2012.pdf [hereinafter ELIMINATING BARRIERS].
36. Baker & Masud, supra note 27, at 512.
37. See generally John O. Spengler et al., Schools as a Community Resource for Physical
Activity: Legal Considerations for Decision Makers, 21 AM. J. HEALTH PROMOTION 390