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Q. Teacher Participation In Volunteer Food Programs

1. Definition

A volunteer food program is a program whereby meals are provided without charge to students, prior to school opening or during lunch period, by a school board and/or some other organization or agency and in which teachers may be participating on a volunteer basis. Such a program should not be confused with the regular school canteen/cafeteria service or with student lunch periods when students provide their own lunch.

2. Preamble

Teachers and others placed in charge of students have a duty to be responsible for their safety and welfare. The failure to act reasonably under certain circumstances, if this failure results in injury or death to a student, can result in legal action. In other words, liability for damages or injury arises when there is negligence.

The duty imposed upon a teacher with respect to the care of students is to act in a manner similar to that of a prudent or careful parent. This duty does not change with the type of student or the type of teaching that is done. The legal liability of a teacher participating in a voluntary food program is no different than the legal liability of a teacher participating in any other extra-curricular activity. Parents sending their children to school have the right to expect that the standard of the reasonably prudent parent will be applied in respect of all activities offered in the school. In the absence of an express waiver of liability, parents are entitled to assume that all activities in the school will be carried on with the same degree of diligence and regard for the safety, health and well-being of students; whether those activities are academic or extra-curricular. The question must always be asked by the participating teacher: “What would a reasonably prudent parent do in these circumstances?”

3. Policy Statements

a) Teacher participation in volunteer food programs requires the teacher’s consent and teachers shall not be required to participate in such programs. [Nov/27/08] [JC Feb/09] [2009 BGM]

b) Participation in volunteer food programs should only be undertaken by a teacher when the teacher has a clear understanding that their legal liability in respect of participation in such a program is the same as it is in respect of all other duties of the teacher. The school administration or any other body organizing the program is responsible for taking the appropriate steps to ensure that teachers are able to respond properly to their legal obligations when assisting in the operations of the program.

c) Full and complete information must be made available to parents by the school or other organizing group concerning the operation of the volunteer food program, including information on the contents of all foods which will be served. Information on medical conditions of a child which may prevent or limit the child’s participation in the program must be solicited from parents prior to the start of the program in each school year.

d) Before participating in a volunteer food program, teachers should ensure:

  1. that the school or organizing group has solicited and obtained from the parents of all students participating in the program, information on any food allergies which student(s) may have or medical conditions which may prevent or limit a student’s participation in the program;
  2. that this information on food allergies and/or medical conditions has been made available to teachers who are participating; and
  3. that information on the contents of all food items being served in the program has been made available to teachers who are participating.

Teachers should not participate in a food program where such information is not sought and obtained from the parents and conveyed to the teachers. [Nov/27/08] [JC Feb/09] [2009 BGM]

e) Teachers who are supervising a volunteer food program must be aware of the possibility of illness due to students’ overeating or eating too quickly. It is the participating teacher’s duty not to ignore those circumstances or situations which come to the attention of the teacher as a result of a reasonable level of supervision. In addition, a teacher should not contribute to a student’s eating too quickly by rushing the child to complete eating when the time does not allow it.

f) If a volunteer food program is provided in a school, it should be made available to all students attending the school in order to avoid parents having to demonstrate a need before a child is permitted to participate and to avoid the consequent social stigma attached to participation when such participation is limited to those who can thus demonstrate a need. [Dec/6-7/91] [1993 AGM]