Language in new YMCA waiver raises concerns among some parents

Parents question waiver's intent

OLATHE, Kan. - A new waiver drafted by the Greater Kansas City YMCA has parents questioning whether the YMCA is protecting itself from frivolous lawsuits, or dodging responsibility if something happens to their children.

With four kids, Freda and Mike Strack are used to signing a lot of waivers stating they understand the activities their children participate in come with risk. However, when they read through the new waiver required for their children's YMCA afterschool program, they had concerns.

In particular, the release states that they will not sue over injury or death “whether caused by the negligence of RELEASEES or otherwise.”

You can read the full waiver here .

While the Stracks know in this day and age organizations need waivers to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits, in their mind this wasn’t doing that. They felt it was letting the YMCA dodge accountability.

“This isn't a waiver that it is ‘at your own risk.’ This is a waiver that says 'if our staff is negligent, we're not responsible,'” said Freda.

That’s concerning to the Stracks, who they say they are hiring the Y to make sure their children are supervised while they are at work.

“We give our kids to the YMCA with the expectation that they are willingly taking on that responsibility, and so that language really threw up a red flag,” said Freda.

41 Action News contacted the YMCA about the language in the new waiver. The YMCA said it had the same waiver for more than a decade. Recently, its insurance provider asked the non-profit to update that waiver.

“I will say the language the Y has is pretty standard language for most waivers,” said Mark Hulet, who handles risk management for the Y.

Hulet said the organization still does extensive training for its staff and that the organization is still regulated by state and local authorities. Hulet believes the Y is a safe place for kids but told 41 Action News the organization believes the new waiver protects the Y and its clients.

“When it comes to the information that is in that waiver, we feel like it is written appropriately. We've actually had our insurance carriers look at that, review that, had counsel review that and feel it is appropriate language in today's society," Hulet said.

The Y and many other organizations will not allow people to participate if they don’t sign a waiver, leaving some attorneys to argue those waivers will never hold up in court.

However, attorney Tim Dollar told 41 Action News that parents need to be mindful what they are signing because some courts have ruled these are enforceable contracts. In turn, signing that agreement may limit your child’s rights to a jury trial if something unfortunate happens to them.

"If you sign that document, our courts at this point have said that is an enforceable contract and the only option is to refuse the service, band together and have a public outcry about these sorts of practices," Dollar said.

He has also sometimes recommended to clients to cross out and initial the sections they don’t agree with or find a new child care provider.

The Stracks love the care their children receive from the Y, but believe the waiver should be reworded.

“This waiver seems to go in a different direction in that they are trying to alleviate as much accountability and responsibility as opposed to accepting the fact they are caring for people’s children,” Mike said.

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