Appendix A: Areas of Law that Could be Implicated

This resource is an appendix to the Guidelines for Conducting Education Abroad during COVID-19

National or regional laws, e.g.:

  • Workplace safety standards
  • Use of government funding or representation about its use (if audited)
  • Financial aid and work-study regulations

Tort negligence (e.g., if someone becomes ill from coronavirus as proximate cause of breach of duty owed, and illness is reasonably foreseeable)

  • To avoid such liability, must act as reasonable person would under the circumstances by, at a minimum, complying with applicable laws and guidelines; to be distinguished from intentional or statutory torts
  • Legal standards might be based on CDC, OSHA, State Dept. Travel Advisories, host country agencies, WHO, etc.
  • Defenses could include contributory/comparative negligence, assumption of risk, or failure to prove causation (difficult to pinpoint how and when a person has contracted the virus)
  • Types of conduct that, if neglected, could give rise to tort negligence:
    • Health and hygiene arrangements, e.g.:
      • Provide a nurse’s station
      • Ensure there is a safe place where participants can quarantine if they get infected
      • Screen upon entry to school premises
      • Availability of hand wash stations on campus
      • Regularly sanitize frequently touched surfaces
      • Remind students/others to stay home if they have symptoms
      • Require face masks be worn (and provide, as necessary)
      • Regularly test and monitor
      • Ensure adequate COVID-related signage on campus, in housing, or in program facilities
      • Provide contract tracing
      • Ensure adequate accommodations for high-risk individuals
      • Require self-quarantining if returning to location after travel
      • Ensure proper health and hygiene arrangements are available during all co-curricular or experiential activities that are included as part of the program.
    • Social/physical distancing, e.g.:
      • Student residences
      • Campus dining
      • Classroom configuration: Smaller class sizes and reconfigured spaces, staggered class schedules
      • One-way stairwells
      • No assemblies, athletics, limiting face-to-face meetings, encouraging videoconferencing
    • Availability of counseling services
      • Student social and emotional support (pastoral care)
      • Employee Assistance Program
    • Timing regarding suspension of program

Breach of contract, e.g.:

  • Between home school and host school
  • Between home or host school and service provider
  • Between school or service provider and third parties (e.g., vendors)
  • Between school or service provider and faculty (based on local labor laws)
  • Between school or service provider and parents (e.g., for reimbursement of fees, emergency evacuation costs, diminished value of education if in remote learning mode; failure to accommodate students on campus or in classrooms if return early from overseas)

Discrimination claims, e.g.: 

  • Who gets tested or temperature checked and how frequently?
  • Who is required to quarantine and under what conditions?
  • Subjecting individuals to inequitable standards/treatment re: reimbursement if program suspended, if offer preferred travel opportunities home for some, or if differential treatment of those who violate program rules
  • Ensuring safety policies do not mistreat persons who fall within a protected category and that disability accommodations related to any online work are adequate and in compliance with applicable law

Privacy issues, e.g.: 

  • Requesting health information
  • Relying on cell phone data to do contract tracing
  • Mishandling of privacy-protected medical info re: GDPR (Europe), HIPAA (U.S.)

Due process rights infringement, e.g.:

  • Requiring testing, temperature checks, facemasks, etc.
  • Forced self-quarantine or isolation
  • Disciplining for failure to comply with restrictions

Local reporting requirements, e.g.:

  • Opening or closing program
  • Number of infections
  • Number of deaths

Visa/entry/border closing concerns