By Tina Comeau
Although the School Insurance Program (SIP) considers zip lines and climbing walls too high risk for students, the Tri-County Regional School Board won’t prohibit students from participating in these types of activities when they go on class trips to Camp Peniel or Upper Clements Park.
But the school board will require parents to sign detailed consent forms before their children will be allowed to participate in these activities, which was something raised by SIP.
The issue chewed up a fair amount of discussion time at the school board’s May 1 meeting.
“SIP has some big concerns around students using zip lines, climbing walls, rock walls, repelling walls, those kinds of things,” explained superintendent Lisa Doucet, who said SIP refers to these as high-risk activities. “Their concerns are there are no provincial guidelines over zip lines, nor does the Nova Department of Labour audit, inspect or regulate them. So SIP has some really big concerns about our students using zip lines.
“What they’re recommending is that our students not use them, that they shouldn’t participate in these high-risk activities.”
SIP is concerned over liability issues, particularly if groups or locations hosting students do not have sufficient general liability insurance for school groups, even though the Tri-County Regional School Board also carries its own insurance for class trips.
“It’s felt that the liability at any camp or any institute in a place that we’re using should be able to kick in if there is some type of an accident,” said Doucet, who added students have gone to the camp before and nothing has ever happened.
Still, board members were asked to make a decision on the issue, given that SIP – its insurance provider – has made a recommendation that students not participate in these activities.
“If we ended up in a situation where we were in court, and the question was put to us, what was the recommendation of our insurance company, then we would have to say that we went against the recommendation of our insurance company,” Doucet said, should the board decide to allow these activities.
Initially, given the position of SIP, a motion was made to prohibit students from participating in these activities until such time that the Department of Labour comes up with some standards.
But after hearing from Mitchell DeWare – a representative of Camp Peniel who was at the school board meeting – when the time came for a vote on the motion only one board member voted to ban students from these activities, and it wasn’t even the board member that had made the initial motion.
DeWare told board members that Camp Peniel does have sufficient liability insurance. He said the camp carries $4 million in liability insurance and it has been in contact with its insurance company to carry $5 million if that’s what the board would like the camp to do.
“For the last eight to 10 years we have had a very good working relationship with the schools in this school board and we have been incident free on the climbing wall and the zip line for all of our camping experiences, whether school group, summer camps, all of those things,” DeWare said, adding camp Peniel’s biggest priority is to ensure the safety of students and campers. He added they have qualified instruction and standards that staff members are required to meet.
While liability is an important concern, some board members questioned how far liability issues are going to go.
“All I can say is when are we going to need helmets for kids to go on swings?” said Joan Brewer.