Liability Concerns and Shared Use of School Recreational Facilities in Underserved Communities

Children living in underserved communities often lack access to safe, affordable places to play. In these communities, schools provide an important resource of structure and facility for recreation, both during the school-day as well as after school, on the weekend, and during the summer. Many schools, however, fear liability issues, posing a barrier to community access.

This study examines concerns about liability and shared use using a national survey of school administrators. The questionnaire, conducted in 2009, had 32 items assessing school and community characteristics to liability and joint use issues. Surveys were completed by school personnel at 360 schools from 46 states; response rate was 21 percent.

Key Findings:

  • Concern for liability should someone be injured on school property after hours while participating in a recreational activity was indicated by 82.2 percent of respondents.
  • 69 percent of respondents noted their school recreational facilities were open to the public after hours for informal or formal use.
  • Only 41 percent were familiar with a state law providing public schools with liability protection when someone participating in a recreational activity is injured on school property outside of regular schools hours.

Research is needed to better understand how fear of liability affects community use.