Signing waivers for kids' classes

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Gymnastics class requires waiver

Oct 2001

I have a three year old who is at the Harold Jones Center. I love the center, its staff and activities, but have a question they are unable to help with, and which is not just specific to that program. In order for my daughter to participate in the Cal Bears Gymnastics part of the program, I was told I need to sign a waiver which was attached to the registration form. In it, one waives all rights and assumes all risks, even in cases of negligence on their part. The waiver includes assumption of risks, a number of other things, and an acknowledgement of understanding, saying you know you are giving up substantial rights. When I received a similar waiver for another class she takes, I crossed out the parts I did not agree with, but Cal Bears told me I cannot do that. It seems everyone is signing away these rights, all over the place. Does anyone know of a way out of this? I don't want her to be unable to participate in things, and I understand the University's desire to protect itself from unnecessary litigation, but I find it offensive that the University would basically say that even if they are at fault, I would not be able to seek redress in a case where I or my insurance could not financially cover the results of their actions. How do you handle these things? Charlotte

The waiver is standard practice; in fact, as your child enters more and more activities, you will find yourself in waiver-land: school field trips, camps, after-school programs, swimming lessons, name it and there's a waiver very similar if not identical to the one you're signing for Harold E. Jones. Responsible organizations must take steps to protect their assets and to identify and make known areas of potential risk: the van that will transport your child to and from the gym, the gym equipment.... You as a parent have the responsibility to understand the risk to your child and if you wish her to participate, recognize your role in assuming risk. You aren't signing away your rights--if there is negligence on the part of the organization you have the right to take action--but you are acknowledging that you understand and assume risk. All activity carries an inherent risk and organizations have a responsibility to inform you of that risk and to know that you understand and assume that risk to your child by signing the waiver--you are providing informed consent. Can you still sue if something horrible happens? Of course. But without a complete and unadulterated waiver on file, your child will not be able to participate. If you're a UC employee, you might want to contact the risk management department on campus (in the business and finance unit) to get more information.

By the time your child gets to high school you will have signed a million of these. Swimming class, ice skating, summer camp, field trip, gym, martial arts, you name it.