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Service learning links community service experiences with course content to create a positive, safe and valuable out-of-classroom learning experience. For a successful program, faculty, students, college staff, and community partners must work together as a team to make the most of the service learning experience and manage the unique risks that exist for each assignment.
Academic and student preparation with a Student Service Learning Plan & Agreement, detailing the service learning assignment in the course syllabus, as well as In-Class and Learning Site Orientations will greatly enhance the results and continue to make the service learning experience meaningful.
SAFECLIP provides General and Professional Liability coverage for students enrolled in service learning course sections for which they receive academic credit. In essence, the program provides indemnity including legal defense cost for students, faculty, campus and host institution (community partner) if there is a claim or lawsuit involving injury to others or damage to property in connection with service learning and other academic fieldwork experiences.
Similarly, SPLIP provides General and Professional Liability coverage as well as Educator's Errors & Omissions Liability coverage for students enrolled in Nursing, Allied Health, Social Work or Education credential programs of the CSU who also perform service learning for academic credit.
Background checks (which may include fingerprinting) are often required for service learning students who come into contact with protected classes of people, such as children, persons with disabilities, and persons living in assisted living facilities. The decision of a learning site to require a background check is solely up to the learning site's interpretation of the laws or regulations that govern it. Learning sites are solely responsible for requesting background checks for service learning students placed at their sites. The university plays no role in this decision and only needs to know which learning sites require background checks. Read More...
Faculty interested in creating a new service learning course or working with a new commmunity organization (one that does not have a Service Learning Campus-Community Partnership Agreement with CSUN) are strongly encouraged to work with the offices of Community Engagement and Risk Management. Campus risk managers can help assess the risk(s) involved with any service learning project and decide how to conduct any partnership with the least amount of risk exposure. The job of risk managers is not to prohibit educational experiences that may seem "too risky," but rather to find ways to reduce the amount of risk and liability exposure, so that each service learning opportunity is as safe, healthful, and fulfilling; and that all parties are fully informed of their responsibilities in mitigating risks.
Faculty members and learning site supervisors should work together to ensure that students are aware of their learning opportunities, the nature of their service learning placement, their specific service opportunities and goals, and the risks that are associated with the placement. For tools to develop a comprehensive risk management plan for your service learning course, click here.
Students engaged in a service learning assignment are also responsible for mitigating potential risks involved with their service learning assignment. The Student Service Learning Plan & Agreement contains "Participation Guidelines" which outline appropriate behavior expectations for service learning students while at the learning site. Students are required to sign the "participation guidelines," which serves as an informed consent, demonstrating their awareness of the potential risks and behavior expectations at the learning site.
The Student Time Sheet also serves a risk management function by keeping a record of when students were providing service at the site. If an incident occurs at the site, and the university needs to know if a specific student was acutlly working at the site at that time, this can provide a quick cross-check to the learning site's sign-in sheet.
For more information on student responsibilities in service learning, click here.
Community organizations must have a completed and signed Service Learning Campus-Community Partnership Agreement on file with the office of Community Engagement before any students are assigned to the organization for a service learning assignment. Community organizations that enter into partnerships with the University for service learning projects are responsible for working with the office of Community Engagement, faculty, and students to mitigate potential risks at the learning site.
Learning Site Supervisors should work with faculty to ensure that students are aware of their learning opportunities, the nature of their service learning placement, their specific service opportunities and goals, and the risks that are associated with the placement; a good tool for this is the Service Learning Project Planning Checklist.
For more information on partnering with CSUN and mitigating risks in service learning, click here.