Bricks & mortar schools are liable for student safety on campus and school activities off campus. They have also been held liable for incidents that occur off campus and on evening or weekends, even if the activities are not sponsored by the school. Virtual schools, particularly full-time virtual schools, have even greater challenges as the lines blur between school and home, and between academic and personal computer usage. This page provides some questions for your board (and maybe your attorneys) to ponder.

Liability concerns in a virtual school program are closely related to the acceptable use policy. You may wish to integrate the two forms for parent and student signatures. Although it is impossible to anticipate all imaginable situations or incidents, your program will need a liability release form to be signed by parents. Some attorneys will caution that such forms aren’t worth much protection in the legal system, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have them. The main benefit of such forms, however, is probably to inform parents and students of their responsibilities and the school’s intent regarding safety and security.

As you develop policies to protect your school, yourselves and your students, your program will want to develop answers to the following questions, and then be sure to include the resulting policies in your manuals and handbooks.

  • Who will be responsible for supervising off-site students, and how will parents be informed about their role in such supervision?
  • Is there a defined school day or school calendar during which the school takes on a different supervisory role or has a different level of responsibility than at other times?
  • What systems will be in place to ease communication between home and school to ensure students are appropriately supervised?
  • In your particular situation, what specific liability and supervision issues may arise that you’ll want to include on your liability release form? For example, are there transportation issues that are different for online students because they are traveling at different times or by non-traditional means?
  • What will be the procedure for disseminating the liability release form, collecting it with parent and student signatures, and maintaining pertinent records?