AAIE invited two attorneys who specialize in education from the McLane/Middleton Law firm in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. David Wolowitz has much experience with international schools and talked about risk management with Covid-19. Susan Schorr has a background in child welfare and protection and works with schools now as a lawyer.
The main themes of their talk were as follows:
- Accountability – schools need to have a standard of care that meets the baseline legal requirements of the country; good international schools will strive to go beyond the baseline
- Transparency – schools need to educate the community about the risks of the pandemic and explain their risk mitigation; it is an interactive process, so getting feedback is good.
- Equity – fairness, protect the health of faculty, students and parents
The “informed consent” approach was discussed at length. This is difficult because it is basically trying to reduce anxiety about coming back to campus while telling people about the risks. It is important to be transparent and let people know what you know, what you don’t know and point them to the resources you are using. There were mixed opinions about the value of requiring employees and parents to sign a waiver. Releases or waivers tend to scare people and they are not airtight, but if you meet the baseline requirements of reopening schools, you are protected.
We discussed privacy issues and protocols if a case of Covid-19 is confirmed in your community. One school gave the grade level and section and sought the approval for the announcement with the family. Some families stopped informing because they did not want the community exposure. The lawyer’s advice was to understand privacy and employment law in the country where the school is located.
Another topic was to get parents to cooperate with school policies and to obey regulations of the country at home. They suggested a code of conduct that parents sign to pledge their cooperation and/or agreement.