Community based team, legality of taking students out of state, etc?

Hi everyone,

I’m an engineer with FRC experience working with a few parents and their kids to research the feasibility of starting an FRC team. I know about the regional directors and senior mentors, and we have reached out to them, but I’d also like to hear from any teams who are similar in make up. The students are based in different schools, mix of public and private schools and in different districts, so they’re looking to form a community team outside of any particular school. They’re working on space and sponsors, and I’m not worried about that.

I am wondering how much of a hassle it is to have non-related adults working with minors and any resulting legal issues with that outside of a school entity. I presume we’ll need to pay for our own background checks and have to handle different permission slips for each school if the students are missing class for an event. What’s the best ways to work with the schools so they’re cooperative about that? I assume permission slips are usually handled by the school administration office? What do you do if you take students out of state for a competition? Is it fine so long as there’s at least one parent on the trip? What if it’s only not-related engineer-mentors traveling with the students? How do you handle the legality of working with minors when you are not related to any of them and you’re not under the cover of a school?

I’m no lawyer but I would assume that it’s mostly between you and the parents. The only time the school should get involved is if they’re missing school. In my opinion, as long as the parents give consent it’s fine but you might also have to deal with the school if they require it.

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I’m not a lawyer… but there are quite a few community-based teams. There are several routes you can go, including 4-H, or just having your own team.

@David_Brinza might have some input on this… 980 is a community-based team spread WAY out over the area, and has won awards for surviving like that.


We formed a 4-H club for the express purpose of organizing our team. We have students from 3 public schools, 2 private schools, and homeschool kids on the team. 4-H helps out with liability concerns, tax exempt issues, and background checks.

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One approach I’ve seen is to find an existing non-profit to sponsor the team. A Boys and Girls club or 4H club will already have this infrastructure in place, so you’re not starting from scratch. If that won’t work for you, you could still reach out to them for advice.

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I’m with a school team, and it seems much of the policy about this stuff is dictated by the school’s insurance policy.

You are planning to get a liability insurance policy for your team, yes? It might have some requirements.

We are a community team but partner with the school district through the local rec department. this gives us free insurance coverage for transporting students. Each student on the team is registered through the rec department regardless of their school affiliation.

As others have said 4H is definitely a great route. We have kids from 3 public schools and a private school with no real issues. They provide us with liability insurance at very minimal cost to us.

It’s also a great connection to the agricultural community.

We created a not-for-profit organization as the umbrella under which we run our community FRC team. We consulted with lawyers to come up with permission/waivers that students and parents sign to join the team. We also developed safety policies which align with YPP and, well, common sense. We have our own liability insurance policy, largely used to cover us when we’re building robots in private spaces donated to us, which also requires that we have proper safety and supervision procedures and documentation in place. Students pay a team fee each year which helps cover the insurance costs.

Every mentor on the team must do YPP training which includes the police background check.

Generally speaking the students missing school is entirely up to the parents to arrange. We do create a permission form for our competitions which students and parents must sign. When we qualified for Detroit Champs last year and crossed the border, we had everyone’s permission forms with us on the bus in case we needed to prove to the border officers that we had a legitimate reason to be taking all the kids with us. However, I’m sure they are used to seeing coach buses filled with students and adult leaders who aren’t their parents (e.g. hockey teams), especially that particular weekend, so it was not a hassle at all.

I apologize for not personally having advice, but 1306 Badgerbots is a communal team in the city I live in and you may have some good input from them:

95 is a multi-school team. We have students from at least 4 different schools spread across two states, plus home schools.

Our area is challenged by low population density and difficult travel (particularity in the winter!). So it’s very common for schools, clubs, sports teams etc. to draw students from multiple communities, even across state lines. So it’s never seemed strange to us to have kids from all over the area as students, or to be not 100% affiliated with a school.

Our current ‘official’ school is a votech, and they’re accustomed to dealing with having students sent from area schools and has all the corresponding insurance framework in place and graciously covers us, which addresses the liability issue. Our mentors all have a background check performed by the votechs school district, in addition to the YPP check. Students have some simple permission slips they fill out so the votech has basic information on out-of-district students, in addition to whatever paperwork they’ll do with their own schools. The votech provides a school bus for transportation to and from the events, which is a product of the insurance situation (coaches can’t, generally speaking, give students rides in personal vehicles without some specific prior arraignments).

All in all, it’s a pretty easy situation for us. Even before we transitioned to our current official school, our prior school district, which fought us on everything, never once balked at having kids from out of the district on the team.

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As EricH indicated eariler, FRC Team 980 is a community team in the Los Angeles area. I am the lead mentor for that team.

FRC Team 980 ThunderBots formed a 501©(3) nonprofit organization over 10 years ago, to afford opportunities for corporate grants, and private donors and sponsorships (tax deductions help!). We also purchased liability insurance for our nonprofit through the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance of California (NIAC), to provide liability protection of our mentors arising from accidents, injuries, improper sexual contact, physical abuse, etc. In order to qualify for this policy, all of our mentors are screened (originally through ISP, but now through the FIRST YPP). We have written policies regarding mentor (and student) code of conduct (which includes travel, hotel, etc.). We also have a separate “Release and Hold Harmless” form signed by students/parents for both our organization and for the sponsor providing our build space. Only students who have complete FIRST Registration and our own Team 980 registration and release forms are permitted to work (and travel) with the team. We are happy to say that we have had no incidents where insurance claims needed to be filed, though we have had to remove a couple of individuals for signification violation(s) of our code of conduct.

We have a 2:1 ratio meaning a student cannot be alone with a mentor at a given time and visa versa. You need to either have 2 students and 1 mentor or 2 mentors and 1 student. We also have some school absence letters that explain the program and what days we have competitions. We haven’t had any problems with schools not excusing the absence during a competition. The parents are always welcome to tag along to any of our events but mostly don’t.

Our team became a Boy Scouts Exploring Post, so we get insurance, additional mentor screening and training through the Scouts.

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