ADHD has several symptoms, including inattention and impulsive behavior. Clearly, a child with such a condition is more prone to wander away from a group and so a higher degree of supervision is warranted. There is little doubt that a church will be held to a higher duty of care in the supervision of a child with ADHD, whether on church premises or during any off-site activity. This is not to say that a church will be legally responsible for any injury that may occur to such a child. To the contrary, a church will be responsible only if its conduct in supervising the child fall below what a jury would deem reasonable given the child’s condition.
A recent case illustrates this point. A minor was injured while attending a charity’s summer camp program, when, as she was swinging on the rings on a playground, she lost her grasp and fell into a pile of sand beneath the rings. The parents insisted that a “heightened level of supervision” was required since their child suffered from an neurological condition. The court ruled that the charity was not liable for the child’s injuries because it was able to demonstrate that there was adequate playground supervision and that a lack of supervision was not the cause of the accident. Further, the court noted that the child’s mother testified that no doctor had ever restricted the scope of the activities in which the child could participate.
Some church leaders, in deciding what level of supervision is appropriate for a child with ADHD, contact their local public schools or other youth-serving charities to see what guidelines they have implemented. Aligning your practice with that of other reputable youth-serving charities in the community can be helpful, since this is the very “community standard” by which a church’s practices will be judged. Benson v. Union Free School District, 2007 WL 613829 (N.Y.A.D. 2007).