Proper Equipment and Supervision Saves Illinois School District from Cheerleading Claim
Also authored by Mikaila John*
The Illinois Appellate Court recently issued a decision that reminds school leaders of the importance proper equipment and supervision can play in defending against lawsuits for injuries in athletics and activities. In Biancorosso v. Troy Community Consolidated School District, a sixth-grade student was injured while performing a stunt during a school cheerleading practice. The student’s parent filed a complaint against the school district, arguing that the school district’s willful and wanton conduct caused the student’s injuries.
Specifically, the complaint alleged that the school district failed to take adequate safety precautions by allowing the student to perform stunts “in a location and on a surface” the district should have known was hazardous, allowing her to practice “potentially hazardous routines” without adequate supervision, and by failing to supervise, train, and monitor cheer coaches regarding safe practices.
The court found that the school district’s actions did not constitute willful and wanton conduct and affirmed the trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the district. The court found that the cheerleading mats used during practice were in warranty and complied with Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) standards for cheerleading practice. The court also found sufficient evidence of adequate supervision during practice, where the student’s coach was in close proximity during the stunt and spotters had been assigned to the student during practice. Accordingly, the court found that the student’s claims of inadequate safety precautions, supervision, and proper equipment were unsupported.
This case highlights the importance of proper precautions and adequate supervision in defending against lawsuits for injuries in school sports and activities. Districts should regularly review procedures and practices for athletics teams and activities and remind staff of the importance of adequate supervision, particularly during more injury-prone activities. For assistance with auditing your extracurricular programs for safety, contact the authors of this post or any other Franczek attorney.
*Mikaila John, a second-year law student at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, is a Loyola Education Practicum Student at Franczek P.C. The Practicum, part of Loyola’s education law curriculum, was created to provide law students with practical experience at education law firms and organizations. Students receive academic credit for their Practicum experience.