Clarifying Liability for After-Hours Community Use of School Recreation Facilities

Key takeaway:

  • State legislation with clear liability protection for schools that offer recreational facilities for community use (“shared use”) can reduce school administrators’ liability concerns and encourage public access to facilities for physical activity and recreation.


  • Schools can establish shared use by opening recreational facilities to the public during non-school hours, by establishing a written contract with a community group or agency (e.g., YMCA, municipal park agency, faith-based organization), or by creating a reciprocal agreement for joint use of partner facilities (e.g., sharing school grounds and a park built side-by-side).
  • Liability protections concerning injuries on school property differ by state, and statutes on community recreational use do not always encompass school facilities and related physical activity.
  • Strong policy includes several key components: findings (i.e., evidence for the policy), purpose (i.e., goals of the policy), definitions (i.e., key terms), liability provisions and exceptions (i.e., restrictions and requirements), and implementation (i.e., steps for enacting the policy). The American Heart Association has provided sample language and key considerations for shaping effective policy.


  • This article reviews the American Heart Association’s policy guidance for joint/shared use of school recreation facilities, which includes language for addressing liability for injury and other concerns.

Spengler, J.O, Frost, N., Connaughton, D.P. & Prince, D. (2013). Clarifying Liability for After-Hours Community Use of School Recreation Facilities. Annals of Health Law 22(2013), 342-354.

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