Reopening Schools in the COVID-19 Climate: Legal Issues to Consider

16 June 2020
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Key Takeaways:

  • As schools and universities move towards reopening this fall, they will need to take a serious look at a number of novel legal issues that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. We have identified three in particular that schools will need to be prepared to address this fall: negligence claims from students and staff related to potential COVID-19 outbreaks on campus, discrimination claims arising from COVID-19 issues, and refund-related claims. We have given some thought to each of these issues and wanted to share our thinking with you.
  • Briefly, to most successfully defend against potential negligence claims, schools will need to carefully monitor and adhere to local, state, and CDC guidelines, creating adaptable plans that are well communicated to all constituents. We have included some best practices that have already been identified, and also given some thought to the enforceability of waivers for ordinary negligence.
  • Additionally, we have identified a number of unique discrimination issues that schools will want to bear in mind as they craft a reopening plan—specifically, issues of potentially disparate treatment for older employees or those with compromised immune systems, as well as discrete ADA or Title IX issues that could arise as schools make necessary adjustments to their programs.
  • Finally, we have both reattached a piece we wrote earlier on refund-related claims, as well as given a few additional thoughts on refund issues we anticipate arising in the 2020-21 school year.
  • We hope this piece is helpful to you in your planning for the potential opening of your school and campus.