Assemblywoman Schimel Pushes for Legislation To Keep Children Safe at All Summer Camps

On Father's Day, and Everyday, Parents Want their Children Kept Safe

Jun 16, 2013, 11:00 ET from American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey

GREAT NECK, N.Y., June 16, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being released by the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey:

With one week left in the legislative session, Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck) urges legislators to protect children at all summer camps by closing a glaring loophole in existing New York State law.  Currently, so-called "single-purpose" day camps are not subjected to the same rules and regulations that other summer day camps have to comply with in order to operate and obtain a permit from the Department of Health. 

"Day camp is often a child's first step towards independence and personal growth.  It should be a place where parents feel confident that their child is in a safe environment.  It is our duty to reform our public health laws to ensure that each and every child attending a day camp program is safe," said Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel.

A single-purpose day camp refers to those camps that offer just one non-passive recreational activity with significant risk of injury.  There are approximately 1,600 of these camps throughout New York State, according to data provided by the New York State Department of Health.  These camps are allowed to operate without a permit or any Health Department oversight because they do not fall into the same category as other camps that have two or more activities on site. Any day camp in the state, indoor or outdoor, that offers more than one activity is covered if any activity poses a significant risk of injury.

Thus, a camp that offers art, music, board games, and one hour of swimming is covered – but one that offers a full day of gymnastics, rock climbing, or lacrosse, is not. Traditional day camps in New York are licensed and inspected by the Department of Health and have been for over 30 years, while a camp that offers only one sport or activity is exempt from all DOH safety standards, no matter how dangerous that one activity may be. 

There are numerous safety lapses that occur from lack of regulation, including no background checks of staff personnel, no minimum age requirement for counselors, and no mandated staffing ratios.

Under the proposed legislation (A.2193-B, S.1015-B), all single-purpose day camps will be required to obtain a permit in order to operate, and must acquire liability insurance in order to provide additional protection to children attending camps.  This will bring single-purpose camps in line with all other camps and ensure that campers have the protection of all Department of Health safety regulations. 

"Currently, there are no government regulations that hold single-purpose camps to the same standards, resulting in a false sense of security for parents who assume every camp has been inspected by the Department of Health to ensure compliance with appropriately stringent guidelines," said Ross Coleman, President of the New York State Camp Directors Association. 

"Parents who are selecting a day camp for their children, whether a single-purpose soccer camp or a traditional, 'general' camp, are entitled to the same assurances regarding safety, health, and program quality," he added.

Parents should be able to trust that all camps in New York State, whether they focus on basketball, soccer, woodworking or are a traditional day camp with a myriad of activities, are all required to meet basic safety standards and be inspected by the Department of Health," said Scott Ralls, President of the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey.  "At this time, parents do not have that assurance. We applaud Assemblywoman Schimel for working to make sure all children are protected." 

SOURCE American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey