Q&A: Does a Child with ADHD Impose a Higher Duty of Care Upon Leaders?

Churches may need to increase supervision.

Some of the news accounts of the 12-year-old Boy Scout who was lost for four days in the mountains of North Carolina indicated that he had Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Does such a condition impose a higher duty of care upon scout leaders? What about church leaders who know of children in the church who have this condition?

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).

Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

ajax-loader-largecaret-downcloseHamburger Menuicon_amazonApple PodcastsBio Iconicon_cards_grid_caretChild Abuse Reporting Laws by State IconChurchSalary Iconicon_facebookGoogle Podcastsicon_instagramLegal Library IconLegal Library Iconicon_linkedinLock IconMegaphone IconOnline Learning IconPodcast IconRecent Legal Developments IconRecommended Reading IconRSS IconSubmiticon_select-arrowSpotify IconAlaska State MapAlabama State MapArkansas State MapArizona State MapCalifornia State MapColorado State MapConnecticut State MapWashington DC State MapDelaware State MapFederal MapFlorida State MapGeorgia State MapHawaii State MapIowa State MapIdaho State MapIllinois State MapIndiana State MapKansas State MapKentucky State MapLouisiana State MapMassachusetts State MapMaryland State MapMaine State MapMichigan State MapMinnesota State MapMissouri State MapMississippi State MapMontana State MapMulti State MapNorth Carolina State MapNorth Dakota State MapNebraska State MapNew Hampshire State MapNew Jersey State MapNew Mexico IconNevada State MapNew York State MapOhio State MapOklahoma State MapOregon State MapPennsylvania State MapRhode Island State MapSouth Carolina State MapSouth Dakota State MapTennessee State MapTexas State MapUtah State MapVirginia State MapVermont State MapWashington State MapWisconsin State MapWest Virginia State MapWyoming State IconShopping Cart IconTax Calendar Iconicon_twitteryoutubepauseplay