Insurance Liability Fix May Limit Who Can Play Middle-School Sports
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
An insurance liability concern relating to sports events has the Greene County School System considering requiring eight county elementary schools to join the Tennessee Middle School Athletic Association (TMSAA).
It appears that that step would take care of the insurance concern.
But if those schools join the TMSAA, it would also mean that their fifth-grade students would no longer be allowed to play sports such as football and basketball with middle-schoolers.
Currently, some of the county's smallest schools, such as Glenwood, West Pines and Camp Creek elementary schools, do allow their fifth-grade students to try out-- and sometimes participate -- in middle-school varsity sports.
However, these schools, as well as the other five county elementary schools that are not middle schools but include middle-school grades, do not participate in the TMSAA.
Therefore, they do not pay the TMSAA fees that provide catastrophic insurance coverage for sports events involving their students.
According to Assistant County Director of Schools David McLain, most health insurance policies would not cover catastrophic injuries as a result of sports events.
Catastrophic coverage, McLain said, generally covers expeses of more than $10,000 and up to $500,000.
McClain says that the only available catastrophic insurance coverage (from Loomis & LaPann) requires participation in an organization such as TMSAA.
ADDITIONAL LIABILITY PROBLEM
Adding to the school system's present insurance liability is that the system does provide catastrophic coverage for high school sports and sports at the two county middle schools: Mosheim Middle School and Chuckey-Doak Middle School.
The catastrophic coverage for high school sports events comes through the hih schools' participation in -- and annual fees paid to -- the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association.
The catastrophic coverage for the two middle schools comes through their participation in -- and annual fees paid to -- the Tennessee Middle School Athletic Association (TMSAA).
This inconsistency in insurance coverage could increase the county school system's liability, officials said.
County Director of Schools Dr.Vicki Kirk further noted that the county's self-insurance plan covers incidents on the school grounds -- but doesn't apply to athletic events, even when they're held on school property.
On Wednesday, the Greene County School System's Policy Committee focused on this liability concern with the following proposed addition to the school system's "Interscholastic Athletics" policy:
"In the event that the school's insurance provider does not extend coverage to an athlete, that athlete must provide proof of independently secured catastrophic coverage and liability coverage, with the school system as a named insured, of not less than the limits set forth [by state law]."
Since the only catastrophic coverage McLain has been able to locate is through TMSAA, adopting this policy change would mean that eight more county elementary schools would need to pay the annual fee to join. He estimated the fee at $300-400.
But if the schools did join the TMSAA to qualify for the catastrophic insurance coverage for sporting events, another change would be necessary:
Because TMSAA prohibits fifth-grade students from playing in their sporting events, these students would now be limited to booster-club sports only -- no varsity sports, he said.
'OUR HANDS ARE TIED'
"Really, our hands are tied," McLain said in an interview with The Greeneville Sun on Friday.
Greene County is already the only school system in East Tennessee that has not become a member of TMSAA in order to receive this coverage, McLain added.
"We really don't have a choice, liability wise," board member Kathy Austin said during Wednesday's meeting.
Kirk said cohort groups of students would be possible for those schools that currently use fifth-grade students on varsity middle-school teams in order to have enough participants to make up a team.
The Board of Education will consider the Policy Committee's recommendation at the board's February meeting.
The policy change would take affect in the 2014-15 school year, McLain said.
The "Interscholastic Athletics" change also calls for the principal of each school to submit annual athletic schedules to the director of schools.
Because of a change in state law, the proposed change deletes a subsection limiting participation to students "enrolled in and have regular attendance at the school for which they compete."
The policy would now read:
"Bylaws of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic association shall regulate the operation and control of secondary athletics."
This change allows for home-schooled students to participate on the school system's sports teams.
The committee also approved changes to the system's "Evaluation of School District" policy.
The school board had requested that the committee align with terminology in the "Board Goals" and other related policies.
Another recommendation was to shift deadlines in the "Insurance Management" policy to earlier in the month of June to help with closing the end-of-the-year budget.
Legal updates to the "Special Education" policy related to new programs and terminology, as well as editorial changes to several other policies, were also approved for recommendation to the full board of education.