The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that teachers who chaperone ski trips shouldn't have to worry about medical bills if they suffer their own ski injuries while monitoring slaloming students.
The ruling comes in the case of a Peabody math teacher injured during a 2004 ski trip - whose medical bills the city of Peabody had refused to pay.
Karen Sikorski, a math teacher at Peabody High School, suffered a shoulder injury that required two operations and physical therapy on Jan. 24, 2004. The city which is self insured, argued she was skiing "recreationally" at the time and refused to reimburse her for her treatment.
But the justices ruled ruled that even though Sikorski volunteered to chaparone the annual student trip, at the time she fell she was performing a work duty: Supervising the students (she was even carrying a school walkie-talkie at the time to call for help if a student was injured):
First, it was customary for teachers to serve as chaperones for the ski club's trips and to perform many of their functions as teachers while they did. The chaperones were responsible for supervising student behavior, enforcing school rules, and monitoring student safety. These supervisory responsibilities are essentially the same ones teachers must exercise while working in the school building during school hours. In order to fulfil these responsibilities while the students were skiing, the chaperones were expected to ski with the students. Indeed, accompanying the students on the ski slopes was the only effective way to monitor the students while they skied. Furthermore, at the time of the employee's injury, she was skiing with the students she was charged with monitoring, rather than skiing recreationally on her own.