Summer camps can be a great source of auxiliary income for independent schools, with the bonus of being fun and engaging for campers. But schools should be aware of the various risks associated with hosting a summer program and take steps to mitigate potential liability. The summer months will be here before you know it, so now is a great time to review your summer camp policies and procedures.

Hiring Camp Employees

Employees hired by the school to work at its summer camp should go through a thorough screening and background check process before they start working. An employment application is an important tool that schools should use to ensure that applicants are providing enough information for the school to determine whether they have the proper qualifications and experience before being interviewed. It is equally important that schools collect applicants' employment references and follow up with every reference provided to obtain information regarding the applicant's work experience, disciplinary issues, and the reason why the individual left their previous positions. Finally, consider asking references specifically whether they have any concerns about the applicant working with children.

While some schools run their own summer camp and hire all their own employees, others offer a mix of camps run by third parties. Either way, independent schools must be mindful of the expectations that parents will have when signing their child up for camp at their school, including the expectation that employees at the camp will be vetted and safe around their children. For employees hired through a third party who will be running the camp, set expectations for hiring and background checks through your vendor or independent contractor agreement to ensure that they meet the school's standards. Other considerations for camp hires include proper classification as exempt or nonexempt, child labor laws for minors working at the camp, and ensuring proper ratios of campers to employees.

Training Camp Employees

Once hired, training and proper supervision of camp employees are the next crucial considerations. Providing appropriate training is very important for ensuring that employees and volunteers are prepared for their responsibilities, and that campers will be safe during their time at camp. Indeed, a separate camp employee handbook is an effective way to communicate important policies and procedures to camp employees. Employees should be trained on camper supervision expectations, including taking attendance and reporting missing campers, appropriate interactions with campers, promoting the physical and emotional safety of campers, managing camper behavior appropriately, following procedures for injuries or other emergencies, and following camper healthcare procedures and policies. Camp staff should also receive training on the school's policies regarding appropriate boundaries with campers, including the use of personal devices to communicate with campers, driving campers, babysitting, housesitting, and other potential conflicts of interest. Training should also cover the procedures for responding to emergency situations, including the necessity of reporting all instances of injury or conflict to a supervisor and properly documenting these instances via incident reports. Schools should also train camp employees on their mandatory reporting obligations and the procedures for raising concerns per the school's policy. Complete training should be provided to all camp employees, including those hired or recruited late, rehired from previous years, and hired mid-camp to replace another employee or volunteer.

Camper Registration

There are also steps schools can take to mitigate potential liability stemming from campers and camp activities. One of the best vehicles for this risk mitigation is the camper registration agreement, which should be used to obtain important information about the camper and obtain a waiver and release from the parents or guardians of the camper. Camper registration agreements should collect and maintain the full name, preferred name, date of birth, emergency contact information, physician contact information, parent or guardian contact information, a completed physical evaluation, immunizations, and allergies. Waivers and releases are helpful tools for both educating signors about the risks of an activity and protecting the camp from liability from injuries.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.