Answer: The McKinney-Vento Act applies to the policies and procedures of the state athletic league. McKinney-Vento requires that lack of parent or guardian cannot be a barrier to enrollment, which includes full participation in school activities. So this procedure/requirement is a barrier that violates the McKinney-Vento Act. Legally speaking, a signature acknowledging concussion risk provides little, if any, protection against a potential lawsuit. It is a procedure that may be a good practice and may soothe administrators’ concerns, but it will not prevent a lawsuit or shield the LEA or state athletic league from liability. However, preventing unaccompanied youth from participating fully in school activities certainly is grounds for a lawsuit. Administrative complaints and lawsuits have been filed to enforce homeless youths’ rights to participate in sports, including the rights of unaccompanied youth. To my knowledge, the school districts and athletic associations have lost every such claim that has been filed. To resolve this issue, state athletic league and the LEAs need to develop an alternate procedure for unaccompanied youth, since the current procedure is a barrier. That could include the youth himself signing the document; it could include the parent signing IF the parent is reasonably available and willing to sign; it could include a caretaker signing, IF one is available and willing to sign; it could include a coach, athletic director or other administrator signing. Federal law does not define how the barrier must be removed, only that a policy/procedure to remove the barrier must be in place. With these students, as with all students, it is critical that coaches and other LEA staff exercise reasonable care to prevent injuries. That, and only that, will provide protection in the case of a lawsuit.
Our state athletic association will not let students start football practice until their parent or legal guardian signs a concussion acknowledgement form. How should this work for unaccompanied youth under McKinney-Vento? There are liability concerns.
Oct 22, 2018 | Q and A