An inflatable bounce house at Youngsville Elementary Field Day 2023. Photo submitted.

School Board Bounces Bouncy House Discussion to Committee

February 14, 2024

RUSSELL, Pa. – A discussion about how much liability the Warren County School District wants to accept regarding field days was eventually tabled until a future Committee of the Whole meeting.

During the public comment portion of Monday’s regular board meeting, Kelly Sullivan, on behalf of the Youngsville Elementary PTO, said that despite use in previous years, the PTO had been denied the ability to have inflatables, bounce houses, and a dunking booth for this year’s field days.

“We were told that we couldn’t have it,” Sullivan said. “I don’t know if it’s for liability reasons. I’m just kind of reaching out here just to talk to the board, talk to administration. I don’t want to just be a closed and shut door. We want to work with the school district work with administration. See what we can do.”

Later in the meeting, WCSD Business Manager Jim Grosch explained that the district’s insurance carrier said bouncy houses were an “absolute no.”

“It would put the district in full responsibility for any claims if there were some that were going to be presented,” Grosch said.

Based on research he’d done on his own, Grosch said he could understand the insurance provider’s position.

“If you want to Google bouncy house issues and bouncy house disasters, there are many videos out there when the winds come in, and the winds kick the bouncy houses and blow them up and put them into the electric lines,” Grosch said.

Grosch added, and Solicitor Chris Byham agreed, that even presenting a waiver option wouldn’t absolve the district from liability.

“That was the first place my mind went to when I heard about this was signing off waivers,” Grosch said. “But our insurance carrier advises that a parent cannot sign a waiver for a child who is under 18 because when they become a teen, they can come back at us and sue us.”

“I’ve given that opinion, many times in the past there is a law that a parent can’t waive the child’s right to sue and then secondarily, the statute of limitations for a child doesn’t start to run until he turned 18,” Byham added. “So for a personal injury claim, for example, you know, a child would have until they’re 20 (to sue).”

When asked if the liability would be lessened if the inflatable was moved indoors, Grosch said he’d have to do further research.

“I’d have to ask further questions on that for indoors, what they are, what they’re if we can make sure that we know exclusions,” Grosch said.

Board member Dan Sullivan said having the bounce houses has been done in the past and asked why this year was different.

“All right, well, I’ve seen these bounce houses with these kids and seen some of those special needs kids use these,” Dan Sullivan said. “They absolutely have a ball and every year they’ve done for three years. I get what you’re talking about, but at what point is it like, you know what happens if a kid chokes on water drinking out of a water fountain? You know what I mean?”

A dunk tank could be an option, provided no one associated with the district is in the tank.

“The second one is the dunking booths and the advice that we received from our insurance program and I have a from the underwriter as well it says that there should be no students, employees, or coaches in the dunking booth,” Grosch said. “Because then it could mean if someone got injured it would go to a workers comp case, and then workers comp lasts with us for three years. So it increases our rates and increases our exposure to premiums as well.”

Superintendent Amy Stewart suggested that the issue would be better served as a committee discussion before taking official action.

“I would say that if the board had different thoughts, which would make me nervous, but that’s my nature, right? We could have a conversation at committee and then somebody could bring it up,” Stewart said.

The board agreed to place the discussion as a future item for committee review. The next Committee of the Whole meeting is scheduled for Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. in Central Office.

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