TRENTON -Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly joined by Senator Paul Sarlo (Both D-Bergen, Passaic) announced today that they will introduce legislation requiring public schools in New Jersey to provide accident and injury insurance for their students who participate in school sports and other extracurricular activities.
The legislators are acting after learning that Paterson School District dropped its student accident insurance, leaving student athletes and others who participate in school activities without coverage. The legislators agree that it is foolish for schools to try to save money by eliminating insurance because it compromises and undermines student safety.
As a former athletic coach and current District Recreation Coordinator for the Paterson School District, Wimberly said student accident insurance has been on the district’s budget chopping block for at least two years to his dismay and against his expressed disapproval of the cut.
“How can any school in good conscience have their students suit up in their school uniforms and take the field or go onto the court without the protection of medical insurance?” said Assemblyman Wimberly, whose son also plays sports at a Paterson District School. “Kids get hurt; it’s the nature of sports. It’s our responsibility to reduce the risks but it is also our responsibility to see that they are covered for treatment if they are injured during school sports or other extracurricular activities on school grounds.”
“The schools have a responsibility to protect and care for their students,” said Senator Sarlo, who is currently active in youth sports and was a three-sport athlete in high school. “These are school sponsored events where the students are competing on teams that represent their schools and in extracurricular activities that are part of their education. If they get hurt or injured in the process, they need to get treated and their parents shouldn’t be forced to pay the bills. That would be an abandonment of the schools’ responsibilities.”
The new legislation will require accident insurance that covers bodily injury sustained by pupils while participating in, practicing for, or training for games or contests conducted by the school district or a school within the district. It would cover interscholastic athletics that are overseen by the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association, intramural sports and injuries that occur during regular and extracurricular activities.
The sponsors said that school systems have historically recognized and met their responsibility to insure against student injuries or accidents and most continue to meet that responsibility, but there is no statewide legal requirement. The bill will make the accident insurance mandatory.