In practically every school in the US, school activities and permission slips go together like the peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a lunchbox. They come in variety of forms and with a lot of different language. As a general rule, though, when you sign it, you're agreeing not to hold the school responsible if your child gets hurt during the school activity.
What Are They?
Your child almost always needs your written permission to go on field trips. This is when she and her classmates plan to leave the school's grounds for part or all of the regular school day. A trip to a zoo or museum are good examples. A trip may involve an overnight stay in another city, too. A permission slip may also be required before your child can participate in after-school activities, especially sports.
The idea is simple: If your child is hurt during the school activity, the school wants to avoid being sued by you to pay for your child's injury and medical care.
Permission slips generally come in one of two ways:
- Blanket or general form
- Informed consent form
Both types usually explain the activity you're giving your child permission to do, as well as the date and time of the activity. Other than that, they often work very differently.
Blanket or general permission forms usually include a complete "waiver of liability." This is where you agree not to hold the school responsible for any injury to your child, no matter who or what caused the accident or injury. Even if the school, teacher, or staff member was negligent - meaning a teacher, for example, did something she wasn't supposed to do, or didn't do something she was supposed to do, and your child was hurt because of it.
For example, if your child was hurt at the zoo because she wasn't properly supervised by a teacher or chaperon (negligence), the school may not be liable for your child's injury if the permission slip you signed included a general waiver of liability.
We say the school may not be liable because general waivers of liability aren't liked by the courts in many states, and so the waiver may not be enforceable. Courts don't like these waivers because they ask the parents and the students to waive important legal rights and let schools avoid liability for preventable injuries.