Some parents are raising concerns about the common practice of allowing Montgomery County Public Schools student-athletes to drive their teammates to games and other athletic events.
For away games when there isn’t a school bus or public transportation available, teams are left to either find parents who can drive the athletes or ask older students to drive their younger teammates, according to Kristin Erdheim, the parent of one MCPS graduate and three current MCPS students.
Erdheim, who submitted written testimony to Tuesday’s county school board meeting which was presented during the public comment portion, said that her daughter began driving her teammates after receiving her license.
“She wasn’t always comfortable doing it, but she was a captain, and felt responsible for her teammates getting to the away games,” Erdheim wrote.
One of her daughter’s friends had an accident while driving teammates home from an away game, Erdheim wrote. No one was injured, but the incident caused Erdheim to think about the liability her family assumes when her daughter is transporting teammates.
MCPS policy requires parents and guardians of students to provide written consent for their student to ride with a driver under the age of 21, but there are no requirements for parents and guardians to consent to their students driving other students.
Student-athletes who check the “riding with a student” box during the registration process for sports participation give broad permissions and “blanket approval” to MCPS, Cynthia Simonson shared in her written testimony on behalf of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations. Simonson is a former president of the organization.
“I doubt many parents are imagining their child driving a carload of kids during rush hour down I-270 and 495. But that is what is happening in some of our programs,” Simonson wrote.
More than 10,000 students participate in MCPS athletics program, Superintendent Monifa McKnight said during the meeting.
Board member Lynne Harris questioned if MCPS can add an option for parents to grant their students permission and accept liability to drive their teammates during the registration process.
All school buses are paid by MCPS instead of individual teams and available if needed, MCPS athletics director Jeffrey Sullivan said during the meeting. From 1:35 to 4:35 p.m. on weekdays, buses are transporting students home from school, so they are unable to transport students to athletic events during that time frame.
“We have to cater, and we try with our game times to do that to the extent possible,” Sullivan said, “but that causes some constraints.”
Sullivan said he can investigate the idea of adding a policy that would allow parents the option of providing written permission for their students to drive other students.
“We can look at that piece of it to see if we want to elevate the insurance and the language around it,” he said.