Random school visit question

Like many authors, I visited schools for years to talk about my books and the writing process. I have spoken to around half a million high school students and maybe half as many elementary school students.

Yeah, that’s a lot of kids.

I loved visiting schools, loved meeting the teachers and librarians, and really learned a lot from the students. I did not love how much energy the visits drained from me, and how much time it took away from writing. I also found that every day spent visiting a school generally took two days of preparation, not to mention travel time and time away from my family. So I decided to take a very long sabbatical (at least two years) from visiting schools.

But many of my friends are still out there. And several of them have written this week about a strange new requirement. Suddenly, school districts are requiring them to show proof of insurance… an insurance that would kick into effect if anyone decides that the author’s presence at the school somehow harmed them. In addition, one author has been asked to sign an 8-page Hold Harmless agreement, in which the author states the 50 million ways she will not pursue the district in any kind of lawsuit.

Several of these friends have consulted with lawyers and brokers and are preparing to pay close to $500/year in the required insurance.

Does anyone else have experience with this?

I have to say, it makes the decision to stay home and write even more attractive.

10 Replies to “Random school visit question”

  1. And then a couple of years down the road when one of the ‘harmed ones’ is on CNN everyone will wonder “what happened….he was such a nice little boy.”


    all these things and more should be taught to kids while they are in school
    (instead of triginometry—like who really USES all of that stuff in their careers anyhow?)

    This responsibility should be shared by both the schools and the parents

    I think somehow that the kids got tossed from one babysitter(parent) to the other (teacher)except neither one of them told the other thats what was going on and now THIS is the end result-

    These are impressionable young people

    Doesnt anyone remember (or at least HEARD OF)the lesson about taking responsibility for an EGG for a whole week—-you carry it with you for a whole week as if it were REAL and you pretend to be a parent TO it as IF it were a live child…..you drop it or hold it too close to your chest and it will CRACK OPEN.

    sigh—–I am so glad I am out of high school-
    It was useless back in the seventies and it appears to have grown a hundred times worse.

    So, yeah- I say stay home and write.
    —the kids who really want to read and experience your stories will still do so.
    And without interference of all this lawyer-babble crappolla……
    just my 2 cents

  2. Well, I never!

    Actually, I have heard of requiring insurance, but I’ve never had it asked of me. Are these in any particular states? If so, I think I’ll avoid those states!

    That said, Florida (my home state) is now requiring a background check, including fingerprinting for all vendors. Okay for me, since I’ll do dozens of visits in Fla. Big pain for out-of-staters.

  3. Re: Well, I never!

    I believe this is in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey area.

    I had a background check for one school. The thought of doing one for each state is mind-boggling.

  4. Background check

    I’m not even sure an out-of-stater could do it because they want the fingerprinting done at the school board offices (That said, oddly enough, they don’t seem to require the results of the fingerprinting before the visit takes place). The first visit I did with the new requirement was in a rural area, and they said they could take me right down to the school board hq the day of my visit and have me fingerprinted before I entered the school. That would definitely not be a possibility in Miami or any other major metro area.

  5. Re: Background check

    A friend of mine knows Jack Gantos. He was in prison in his early/mid-twenties for smuggling Hash into the country and he wrote about it in his book Hole In My Life. I know of a school district that requested him and then abandoned him asking him to not have contact with them anymore. I wonder about the authors that do have (even slight) criminal backgrounds…

  6. Really???

    I’ve never heard of anything like this. Sheesh. Talk about hoops not worth jumping through. At one school, I gave them my drivers’ license and they scanned it in to make my official ID but that’s the furthest it’s gone. Call me crazy but I’m thinking that the LACK of art in school is what’s harming kids. Anyone got insurance against that?

  7. You are an inspiration

    Hello Ms. Anderson,

    You probably don’t remember me; you meet so many people. My name is Ryan and I came with several other preservice teachers from Le Moyne when you came to speak at OCC this past November. I had asked you, while you were graciously signing my book, whether or not your characters reflect something of yourself because my own characters in my own stories seem to be ME. Since then I have had the privilege of teaching your young adult novel Speak to my junior class. They loved the book (several finished it within the first 2 days of starting). I just wanted you to know that I absolutely loved your book and hope to one day be able to write a story half as good as yours. I know you must get a lot of messages like this, but I wanted to let you know that you have been an inspiration to me and my writing. Thank you! Thank you so very much!

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