The Use of School Facilities by Outside Parties: What Schools Need to Know

Throughout the year, school facilities serve a multitude of roles and purposes, and it’s fairly common for outside parties to want to utilize these spaces as well for non-school related activities—such as celebrations, group meetings, use of athletic facilities and other similar events.

Before a school provides permission to do so, however, there are some important considerations that can help mitigate the associated risks and ensure that a school is properly protected should an incident occur. This includes not only protecting the school’s property from damage but also protecting the school’s exposure to liability from the activities of outside parties while on campus.

The first consideration is to implement a facilities use agreement—which is a legal contract—that includes an indemnification and hold harmless clause in favor of the school. There should also be insurance language in the facilities use agreement that specifies what insurance the third party is required to have in place prior to their use of school facilities.

The insurance requirements should include evidence that the third party has general liability coverage in place that provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage arising out of their activities. In addition, it should require that the school is named as an additional insured on that policy via an endorsement.

This additional insured status provides the school an extra layer of defense for incidents that occur out of the activities of the third party while on campus over and above the school’s insurance.

There may be times when an individual or group may not have general liability insurance but wishes to use the school facilities for a special occasion, such as a wedding. In those instances, the school can require a Special Event policy with an additional insured endorsement in favor of the school, which will provide the same coverage mentioned above but only for that one-time event.

The required limits of liability are going to be dependent upon the types of activities that are going to be conducted on campus, and the school will have to make a judgement call as to what minimum coverage they will require. However, it is recommended that a starting point for General Liability be $1,000,000—providing coverage for bodily injury and property damage on a combined basis.

The school also needs to factor in who the user is and what activities they will be conducting on campus. This may establish a need for additional insurance requirements that may include automobile liability insurance for use of their vehicles on campus; abuse and molestation coverage if they will be coming in direct contact with students and workers’ compensation to provide statutory benefits for injuries that may be sustained by their employees while engaging in activities on campus.

The types of activities the school will allow will also need to be evaluated, as the exposure to risk can vary greatly. As an example, the risks associated with the use of a multi-purpose room for a group meeting would be very different than that of a group using the athletic facilities on Saturday mornings.

The riskier activities may require the addition of an assumption of risk clause to the facilities use agreement, in addition to the indemnification and hold harmless provisions mentioned above. Other considerations might be the use of certain cautionary signage, staff and/or adult supervision or whether unsupervised activities are permitted, especially those involving minors.

Ultimately, the school will need to measure the potential risks versus the revenue and/or community goodwill generated by allowing certain types of activities to determine whether it is in the school’s best interest or not.

And finally, if there is any doubt as to the acceptability of certain activities, it is recommended that the school reach out to their insurance broker and legal counsel for advice on how best to proceed.

If you have any questions pertaining to this article, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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About Cheryl McDowell

Cheryl has over 30 years of experience in the areas of insurance and risk management. With Bolton’s Education Practice Group, she works with education clients to review and improve their existing risk management and insurance programs, including coordination of forensic audits of the school’s existing risk management and insurance programs.

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