Parent Coach Liability

Clearly starting a VEX team is going to involve hours and hours after school and late nights. As the sponsoring teacher, I do not have the time to be at school all of these hours. A couple parents would be likely to be willing to help, but the issue is now I have a non-school board employee in charge of thousands of dollars of equipment and being left alone with students. How could one handle this liability?

With 10,000 teams out there, this must come up a lot…


I bet it comes up a lot, but the question probably varies a lot, and I don’t think anyone can give you a definitive answer. Your best bet it to ask your school board, as everywhere has some different rules. They would most likely either say no to outside supervisors, or have some legal paperwork to protect themselves. That’s just my guess, but as I said you will have to see what it is like for your area and school board.

in the UK,

i had to have a enhanced police check,

then i can be allowed to enter the school, but can never be left alone with the kids, even if it is a member of staff marking in the corner of the room

but it is different everywhere !

It seems to me that the best school-sponsored teams are those that allow their kids to take the robot home where they have a parent serve as a mentor. Then the parents arrange for the kids to meet at their houses, etc. I’m not sure how all the legalities work out for that, however.

It’s a vicious cycle. Too many lawyers can’t find useful work to do, so they sue the school when little Johnny scratches his finger while working on a robot. The school system therefore shuts down teaching robotics. The kids therefore grow up never learning how to do anything useful, so they go into law. After graduating from law school, they can’t find any useful work to do, but they hear about this little kid at the local school who just scratched his finger… :smiley:

We used to hide in the back of our teachers classroom until he left, at which time we would continue working, never using power tools just to be safe.

It is pretty common for a kid to take home a library book or other piece of school property. There is a process to document what they have, and to ensure that it is returned… so why not the same with the robot?

So pick a student and parent that you trust, document (maybe a photo?) them picking up the robot and parts (you do have all your parts neatly stored in portable boxes, and have all the expensive stuff labelled, right?) and let them take it home.

If the parents decide to invite other students into their house, then that is their responsibility.

Now if you are assigning marks for the work, or making it an expectation that team members will be there, or anything like that… well… then it is a team event and therefore a school event and you’ve got a tonne of paperwork. But when I was teaching high school I would, from time to time, let a kid take a robot kit home for the weekend. It would show up again Monday morning, greatly improved, and somehow all the kids on the team knew how it all worked.

But only you know your kids, parents, and local policies and expectations. There won’t be one right answer to this one.


We just take it home for as long as we need whenever we want. The teacher trusts us to be responsible with it and we’ve never had any problems in the years we’ve been doing it. The only way we’d bring the school in on an injury is if someone lost a finger or an eye or something. Which is unlikely because we have seniors on each team that are responsible enough to take charge and keep it orderly.

The whole checkout system within any formality is something begging to go wrong.
The teacher needs to trust someone at first. It could be a parent or just the president of the club. And then that student or parent provides a positive example for other students how to treat the parts outside of school. The coach also becomes more comfortable with the idea and allows more people to take parts home.

From my understanding official school rules are just side stepped and the school itself doesn’t know what’s going on.

Time is always the big issue in vex. Given 100 hours prior to a competition, most teams can do well. We have a few ways to deal with time limit:

Our mentor allows a few of us to take home robots and parts during thanksgiving break and Christmas break. Our mentor trusts us and will only give this privilege to people he can trust.

We have a team convention of once a year overnight build party. We just had one and we made a lot of progress. I barely made it to 5:00 though… But if you desperately need time you can organize a sleepover or things that nature.

We have once a week after school meeting. Although a lot of members have trouble to attend, it definitely helps.

I bet it would be so fun to do what 1961C does…

I guess I will throw a funny story out there.

So over spring break I realized i had left some parts that I wanted at school. So I texted the head of the magnet program for math and science. She called the principal who called the head of the janitorial staff telling him to let me in and take what I want. I went and snuck into the school looking for the head janitor. Found a normal janitor who hadn’t heard and who kicked me out.

Another call with magnet councilar and she called the vice principal who went and met me at school to let me get stuff :).

Moral of the story. When your school asks if you want to travel to middle schools to convince them to come to your school. Say yes.

Also schools like robotics if you bring them to competitions and you do well.