Private School Enrollment Agreement

By October 2, 2021 No Comments

Independent schools should carefully review their enrolment contracts in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our education lawyers have extensive experience in drafting school enrolment contracts, and we would be happy to support your school in this area. Given the need to use distance or hybrid learning, schools have relied heavily on synchronous or asynchronous learning, which requires recorded lectures or lectures. In the age of COVID-19, this can happen due to the student`s location and/or time zone, illness, choice of student or school, or mandatory quarantine. Whatever the reason, a school must be able to effectively teach all of its students when and where they are learning, and the consent register is necessary to ensure that this can happen. However, depending on the state where the school is located (or its distant students), the school may be required to obtain written consent to record students` voices in accordance with applicable wiretapping laws. It is therefore advantageous to include the recording of consents in registration contracts. By ensuring that all families sign these provisions as a condition of enrolment, schools can eliminate the stress of having to seek broad parental consent on the eve of a transition to distance learning. Schools should generally consider referring to their student or parent manual in their enrollment contacts to indicate that compliance is required.

This provision can be particularly useful for schools that are also trying to implement pandemic policies and the respect of these expectations by families. However, enrolment contracts referring to this notice must explicitly state that neither the textbook nor any other school policy statement constitutes a binding contract. Families should also be informed that in the event of a conflict between the documents, the registration contract determines the rights and obligations of the family. Schools across the country are navigating uncharted waters as they reopen amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. School community members expressed high hopes and concerns for the new school year, including concerns about the quality of students` education, risks to the safety of community members, and safety protocols designed to keep them safe. Not surprisingly, litigation against colleges has already begun in earnest, with lawsuits – both individual and collective – demanding partial reimbursement of tuition fees. As the courts have recognized, the relationship between independent schools and the families they serve is, in principle, contractual. The COVID-19 crisis has brought this relationship back to the forefront, notably by revising school enrolment contracts. As schools want to prepare for the unknown future, it is important that they think carefully about how to design their annual enrollment contracts to better protect their interests.

There are several provisions that schools should consider including in their enrolment contracts to achieve this goal. Schools in the age of COVID-19 need to familiarize themselves with the requirements of the Federal Children`s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). COPPA requires companies covered by the law to inform parents and obtain their consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children under the age of thirteen. Although schools are generally not under COPPA, schools are increasingly using COPPA-covered online service providers and often require parental consent for these services. The Federal Trade Commission noted that schools can consent, on behalf of parents, to students using these service providers in accordance with COPPA for online learning. The web-based terms of use in enrollment agreements are designed to allow schools to consent to the continued use of their providers` services without the need for further direct parental authorization if those services are used during the year. Current litigation in the academic context is generally based on the premise that distance learning is a breach of the university`s contractual obligation to provide students with face-to-face learning. Therefore, force majeure provisions that allow schools to retain their authority to suspend or modify their curriculum in the event of extreme circumstances such as a pandemic are perhaps the most important part of enrollment contracts in the age of COVID-19. As these lawsuits demonstrate, it is crucial that independent enrolment contracts include language that makes it clear to families that the school`s contractual obligations can be suspended due to forces beyond their control. Schools should be careful to include a non-exhaustive list of examples, including epidemics, pandemics and virus outbreaks. Well-formulated force majeure clauses in the COVID-19 era provide a basis for the transition to distance learning during the school year, provided the pandemic persists and additional risks arise (or in the event of a new skills crisis).

These provisions allow for changes to the school`s activities, which may include programs, school calendars, schedules and programs of study. You should also point out that families` obligations under the contract are unconditional, regardless of the type of programming offered, so the only recourse in case of non-performance under the contract is future performance or a modified service. In other words, these provisions should make it clear that there are no circumstances that allow for reimbursement of tuition fees. Along with the force majeure provisions, the academic performance provisions are an important means of establishing a school`s contractual right to change its curriculum at its own discretion. However, unlike the provisions on force majeure, the provisions on academic performance do not oblige the school to report a specific triggering event. Well-formulated provisions on academic performance should indicate to families that the school does not guarantee pupils a specific type of educational programme, programme, benefits or experience. In addition, this provision can help protect a school from claims of consumer protection and educational abuse by recognizing that the school does not guarantee specific academic performance to students. The aim is to protect schools from the requirements of students who do not graduate with the highest grades, are fluent in a foreign language, succeed in a nearest school or score high on standardized tests.

Given the benefits of such provisions, their inclusion in registration contracts will remain a best practice even after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. I rarely see enrollment agreements in private schools available online. Shouldn`t this important document be made available to parents so that they can read it and think about it when deciding which private school to send to their children? While the enrollment agreement is an important document that parents should consider carefully, the agreement is also an important document that schools must protect. Publishing the document online could be risky for the school from a legal point of view. For example, a plaintiff`s lawyer may try to use the agreement against the school. There may also be different agreements for different students (for example. B an international student against a national student or a day student against a boarding student. Also, due to previous problems with this family, there may be a specific enrollment agreement for a particular family.

The school may not want to publicly highlight these differences. Should registration contracts ever be updated? We recommend that our customers review the registration agreements every few years after a first full update of the registration contract. There may be changes to consider each year based on new best practices, but these changes are not necessarily significant. Another issue that schools should consider carefully in the current climate is whether they should include in their enrollment contract a COVID-19 waiver, a risk-taking provision, or risk notification and disclosure. Including any of these types of provisions can be beneficial in preventing or defending against lawsuits, but could also lead to negative reactions in the community, as families and other community members may wonder if the school is doing everything in its power to prevent COVID-19 infections. .