Many students and staff ride their bikes and scooters to school. However, as Emily Shoemark explains, with this healthy habit comes a range of risks that schools need to manage, both in relation to safety of the riders and the personal property kept on the school campus. A school’s liability will depend on the circumstances of the situation, but it is important to keep in mind the general duty to provide a safe school for students and staff.
Here are four things for schools to consider in managing these risks.
1. Enrolment terms and waivers
A school has a legal contract with each family for the enrolment of a student. The agreement can set out a range of obligations and rights of each party, including relating to limitation of liability and waivers where appropriate.
A school may consider including in their terms of enrolment clear parameters about a student’s assumption of risk if choosing to walk or ride to school, and well as compliance with school policies. The school policy should make it clear that students and their parents are responsible for all activities until the student reaches the boundary of the school, and the school cannot accept any responsibility outside the school.
2. School policies
A ‘ride to school’ policy can set out clear guidelines and rules for students riding to school, and the consequences for not adhering to the policy. The policy can include safety requirements, such as wearing a helmet and not riding in certain areas of the campus, as well as any logistical issues to assist with safety and managing potentially large numbers of students riding bikes and scooters at the same time.
3. Cyclists and cars
A key risk for any student or staff member riding a bike or scooting to school is interaction with cars, especially if required to ride on or across roads to get to school. This risk is also difficult for schools to manage, as while riding in car parks on school grounds and roads leading to the school may be able to be supervised immediately before and after school, the risk associated with the rest of the journey to and from home is very difficult to control. The school cannot accept any responsibility for such journeys.
4. Storage of bikes, scooters and helmets
Finally, with riding to school comes the requirement for safe storage of additional, and often quite expensive, personal property belonging to students. Schools should make it clear what steps they will take to assist with keeping property safe, such as a designated storage area, and what steps students are expected to take, such as bike locks, but it may also be wise to make it clear that the school accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused to such property beyond those measures outlined, and also consider having parents sign a waiver relating to such loss or damage.
One other issue is important to note. If a teacher is injured riding to or from work, such a journey will be considered as part of their employment, and workers compensation will be payable. That only applies if the teacher is employed by a private or independent school. Government teachers are excluded from workers compensation in such circumstances.
How can we help?
Our personal injury, business services and employment teams can assist understanding your rights and responsibilities related to managing risks related to staff and students riding to school and can be contacted on 02 6285 8000 or by email.
*The content of this article is provided for information purposes only, and we do not accept any liability for reliance upon the information contained in this article. This information cannot be relied upon as legal advice.