By Barry E. Morgan, Esq.
You, as booster president, have been served; the document is very official with pages of legal jargon, John Doe, Plaintiff vs. Happy Valley High School Band Boosters, Defendant. What next? Will the school district provide a lawyer and pay any judgment? Can we as officers of the organization be held personally liable. We discovered our treasurer has embezzled $20,000, are we protected? All of these issues are important considerations for the leadership of any booster club. In our current litigious environment booster organizations across the country must develop strategies to protect themselves, and the assets of the group. So what can be done and how can the National Association of Music Parents (AMP) help?
Booster organizations, are in some sense, a perfect storm for litigation: chaperoning children, fundraising activities and handling large amounts of money all present the potential for liability. For example, on a recent trip to Hawaii, a booster club was sued for negligence concerning proper supervision of a student who left the room after bed check, fell from a 6th floor balcony and died. The judgment was $600,000 for failing to properly supervise this student. In another example, unfortunately experienced across the country, a booster treasurer was found guilty of stealing over $50,000 from the band booster account. How will the booster organization pay the $600,000 judgment, how will the $50,000 be recovered? Real situations affecting real parents who simply want to provide the best experience they can for their children.
But the School District Covers that.
If you are in a school district that provides this type of protection consider yourselves lucky, most don’t. At a minimum the organization will need to hire an attorney, the school district attorney may consider it a conflict to represent the district and the booster organization, as there may be competing defenses between the district and the boosters. Check with your district risk management director to see if your organization is covered, if the answer is yes secure a copy of that coverage in writing and make it a part of the official records of the organization.
If you are an independent corporation, for example a 501(c)3 under the non-profit laws of the United States and your state, most school districts consider you to be a separate entity and therefore not covered under their liability policies. If your organization falls into this category as a fiduciary of the organization steps must be taken to protect the assets of the corporation and the personal assets of the officers.
What can we do, liability insurance is expensive?
While the primary purpose of a booster organization is to provide the means necessary for a successful experience for the students, it is imperative to protect the volunteers who run the organization and the assets the group owns, currently liability insurance is a must. The National Association of Music Parents (AMP) has partnered with PTO Today to offer an affordable solution for your organization. AMP now offers its group members a package of four policies that include; a general liability policy, a director and officer policy (or a policy to bond the officers), a crime policy and an excess medical expense policy. AMP can now provide you with the coverage that fits the needs of your group at an affordable price. The piece of mind that comes from knowing your group is protected allows your organization to focus on its main mission of providing the support of the band, chorus and orchestra, and ensuring all involved have the experiences they will remember for a lifetime. Learn more about the policy details at www.amparents.org/insurance. Contact AMP today to any questions you might have about this coverage for your group, they will be happy to provide these policies to protect you.