The District of Columbia is in a pickle, but the Shared Use of School Property Amendment Act (Bill 20-320) can bring players closer to home. Literally. This bill provides more opportunity for communities to participate in physical activity, by allowing them to more easily use their public school facilities.
Many low-income communities in the District lack the infrastructure to support active lifestyles. This is especially alarming when you compare obesity rates in the District; 44% in Ward 8, compared to 7.5% in Ward 3, for example. Having more access to recreational facilities is a proven way to increase the health of a community. And this bill provides the balance to do so. It creates more environments for physical activity and it limits schools’ exposure to liability, except in cases of gross negligence.
Why is this balance so important? Because the legislation will break down several barriers that prevent the use of school resources. Currently, organizations are required to carry expensive liability insurance and pay high fees to receive a permit to use school grounds because schools are held liable for anything that happens. Few community organizations in the District can afford this level of insurance. Limiting schools’ risk through the Shared Use Bill will allow organizations to need less expensive liability insurance and more community members will be able to participate in physical activity programs.
As Councilmember Tommy Wells states in the July 14th DC Council Committee of the Whole meeting, “it is the balance that we are looking for…we all have had experiences with our local groups unable to access public facilities because of the cost to pay for liability… this is an attempt to manage that.”
The American Heart Association supports Shared Use as a tool to help communities to be more physically active. To advocate for Shared Use and be a member of You’re the Curefollow this link: http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/composeletters.aspx?AlertID=35329