Policies to Promote the Community Use of Schools A Review of State Recreational User Statutes

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Human Performance and Recreation



Concern over liability is a barrier to allowing community use of school property for the purpose of engaging in active sport and recreational activities. Recreational user statutes have the potential to limit liability for public schools when use occurs outside of regular school hours, reduce the fear of liability among school administrators, and increase opportunities for access to school facilities for recreation and physical activity by community members. The purpose of this study was to examine the applicability of recreational user statutes to public schools when the use of school facilities for recreational purposes would occur outside of regular school hours.

Evidence acquisition

A review of recreational user statutes from all 50 states was conducted in 2007 and 2009. Characteristics of those statutes from states with laws potentially applicable to public school recreation and sport facilities were described in detail.

Evidence synthesis

Forty-two states had recreational user statutes that would potentially offer protection from liability for public schools. Protected activities listed in state statutes were summer sports (n=2); winter sports (n=22); athletic competition (n=1); sporting events and activities (n=1); exercise (n=4); and any other outdoor sport, game, or recreational activity (n=2). Specific protected physical activities listed were playing on playground equipment (n=1); running/jogging (n=2); roller-skating and rollerblading (n=4); skateboarding (n=2); disc golf (n=1); and bicycling (n=16).


This study suggests the need for further statutory liability protections for public schools, and immunity provisions that target activities conducive to physical activity, common on school grounds, and popular among community residents. It further suggests that empirical studies be conducted to examine school administrator's perceptions relevant to liability as a potential barrier to opening school sport and recreational facilities to members of the community outside of regular school hours.

Publication Title

American Journal of Preventive Medicine





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