November 2013: Extracurriculars and Supervision Update and Meeting Summary

Update: Halifax Central Meeting of November 28, 2013

Extracurriculars and the supervision requirement have been receiving ongoing attention since last we met. Elwin LeRoux has spoken with the School Insurance Programme (SIP) and the governing board has now discussed the subject at length in a leadership session. The result: instead of starting with and providing only a synthesis of our Halifax Central conversation I’m able to provide a summary of the conversations that have occurred in the time since, concluding with the summary promised. Intervening conversations have been for the purpose of gathering information. Your feedback is encouraged.

Following our meeting at Halifax Central Elwin LeRoux contacted the School Insurance Program (SIP). Discussion at our meeting had touched extensively on risk – the school insurer was the place to start with that question. Their response was unexpectedly and dishearteningly simple: in a decision by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia involving a school in Lunenburg County it was determined that the duty of care for students lay with teachers and could not be delegated to other staff or volunteers. That’s what’s driving SIP’s recommendation regarding supervision by a teacher at extracurricular events: legal precedent. It’s less a matter of claims history and risk assessment than of a court finding that care can not be delegated. That being the case I have asked the Superintendent if our own corporate secretary might look more closely at the details of that decision bearing in mind our desire to find a way to expand options which meet the duty of care standard through volunteers.

Beyond that and getting back to the meeting of November 28 there was the issue of current practice. At that meeting Elwin LeRoux responded to the example of a game at which a single teacher from a host school and two or three parent volunteers were present with saying that the supervision requirement in such a scenario has been met.  Providing the teacher agrees to be responsible for supervising both teams and the principals involved approve the supervision, one teacher is sufficient. This is not new but it appears it is not commonly known. The principles of teacher consent and principal approval are core to the application of this practice.

Highlights and Suggestions from the Halifax Central JH Discussion

At the heart of the matter is one of the specific requirements for extra-curricular activities: teacher involvement.  This is a challenge for some schools, especially when contemplating breadth of offerings, (eg. B teams).  The meeting was introduced as an opportunity to have a discussion about considerations and possibilities in the absence of the expectation of teacher involvement.  In other words, what things, from a parent and community member’s perspective, might warrant consideration to ensure both care and supervision of students and a broader range of activities.

Most if not all of the (approx. 40) participants shared in the discussion which centered to a great extent on better understanding “risk” as applied by the insurer and possible remedies.

Contributions included:

· Clear volunteer policy

·  Informed consent so that parents have a clear understanding of the scope of supervision for their children

·  Clearly defining risks and implementing strategies to mitigate these risks with non-teacher organizers/supervisors

·  Consideration of the opportunities lost to parents for not taking an ownership role in support/supervision

·  Clearly defining the barriers to change

·  Clearly stating why the teacher is currently required, exploring “common sense” ways to meet stated needs, and examining whether we’re saying that teachers are more trustworthy than coaches

·   Developing a process or programme by whereby the expectations for those organizing and supervising are outlined and communicated, eg. identifying who is responsible for what at which events

·   Recognition that while expanding offerings is a way to increase access to physical activity and participation it will also produce issues of inaccessibility and inequity for some (rural vs urban)

·   Request Minister waive fees for all criminal records checks for volunteers

·   Question of how to accredit or certify people responsible for teams

·   Question of the practical implications of social versus potential litigation costs

·   A strategy for funding extra-curricular activities with donations in schools unable to provide additional offerings

·   One solution or more? Might there be different requirements for: in school, in board, and abroad?

·   Principal should not be solely responsible but should instead share responsibility with the SAC

There is a clear need for the communication of current minimum requirements surrounding supervision for extra-curricular activities, especially team sports.  In essence, the principal is responsible for curricular and extra-curricular activities at the school and there are many things for a principal to consider in approving extra-curricular activities, including related board policies and the School Insurance Program (SIP).

Transportation is a consideration unto itself and brings with it specific requirements of policy and practice. The issue of equity and access to extracurriculars as it pertains to transportation is an additional consideration  – the board needing to contemplate the needs and situations of all students, eg. the ability of all to get to events.

A discussion was had about the possibility of extra-curricular activities being organized entirely by parent volunteers and no longer under the auspices of the school or school board.  Although important to explore, this idea was not a popular one .

Again, your feedback is encouraged. We’ve had a tremendous start to this discussion, staff will continue to explore as described above, and we’ll proceed accordingly.  Your thoughts and suggestions are important.

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