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Thursday, August 27, 2020
Signing a Waiver Is to Excuse a Catholic School for Its Gross Negligence
“The Archdiocese of Chicago is asking parents to sign a waiver before sending their child to school during the coronavirus pandemic. Parents reported receiving an ‘acknowledgement form’ stating they understand the risks, will adhere to coronavirus protocols and waive the right to sue the school and the Catholic Bishop of Chicago for ‘any claims of negligent exposure.’
“The archdiocese said the document requires parents to ‘agree to review protocols’ put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus, but also acknowledges the risks of sending a child to school as ‘there was no foolproof measure to prevent the introduction of the virus in our school environment.’
“As for the waiver of liability, the Archdiocese said it chose to include it ‘as a way to impress upon parents the importance of our partnership in implementing these protocols to limiting the introduction and spread of disease in our school communities.’
"'To be very clear, the Office of Catholic Schools informed its school principals that if a family refused to sign the waiver portion of the document that it would not recommend the family not be permitted to return for that reason, provided they accepted the protocols and assumption of risk,' the archdiocese said in a statement. 'Our schools will work with our families.' Some parents still expressed concern after receiving the letter. 'I understand why they did it, but I would not have felt comfortable signing it,' Kelly said.
“Attorney Paul Lannon, who specializes in education, said it's unclear if such waivers will hold up in court. ‘There is typically some limitations on it,’ he told NBC 5. ‘They don't cover intentional or gross negligence, just ordinary negligence.’
“Despite plans from other area districts, including Chicago Public Schools, to start the year remotely, the Archdiocese of Chicago has continued on its plan to keep children in classrooms.
“In a letter to parents earlier this month, the Archdiocese said they strongly believe that their reopening plan, which allows for students to return to full-time in-person learning, is in the best interests of children and their mission. ‘In-person learning is essential for the intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual growth of our students,’ the letter read. ‘Our reopening plan maximizes the safety of our students and employees while allowing the resumption of in-person learning.’
[Signing a waiver means the school is not accountable for a student’s safety and health. It is a “death release.” What kind of so-called “intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual growth” are these students going to have while wearing masks (and, of course, some of them will not be able to wear them all day long!)? What kind of so-called socialization will they have in these classrooms while social distancing? What will happen when they take their masks off to eat their lunch? What is the school going to do when a teacher, staff member or student tests positive with the coronavirus? Will the school cooperate with health officials and do the necessary contact tracing and testing? Will the school do what is moral and safe and close its doors for at least 14 days, or will it wait until more children, teachers and staff are exposed to this deadly virus? Furthermore, why would a school require parents to sign away their “rights to recover” if liability were to be found? “[After all] in Illinois, the law is well established that a parent cannot waive, compromise or release a minor child’s cause of action. Only by statute or court approval is a parent’s waiver and or liability release effective to bar a minor child’s future cause of action.”]
“The Archdiocese said they plan to offer both five-day, in-person learning as well as remote e-learning for those unable or whose parents are unwilling to return to classrooms. The plan includes measures like mandatory face masks for students over the age of 2, student ‘cohorts’ and temperature checks. [What good are "temperature checks" when there are asymptomatic carriers of this coronavirus?].
“‘We live in extraordinary times and it is our intent to reopen our school buildings safely to all families this fall,’ Dr. Jim Rigg, superintendent of the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools, said in a statement. ‘Such a reopening has required careful and diligent planning on the part of our school employees, along with consultation from medical professionals, state and local officials, educators, parents, and others. We believe that in-person instruction is the best way to benefit our students and are committed to providing that instruction in a safe manner’” (NBC).