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| 1 minute read

When Nondisclosure Agreements are a Bad Idea

Lawyers love nondisclosure agreements.  We like to control discussions, particularly anything that anyone says about our clients.  Nondisclosure agreements, however, are not always a good idea.  One time that they are a bad idea is when a youth sports league is talking to parents about the arrest of a league coach for child abuse.  According to news reports, officials in Saskatchewan charged a youth softball coach with sexually assaulting a minor.  The league suspended him, and then invited parents to a meeting to discuss the situation.  Such meetings are common and usually a good idea.  Youth organizations have a moral (and sometimes legal) obligation to be transparent with their clients and parents.  

What is most definitely not a good idea is what the officials did next.  As parents entered, the officials asked them to sign nondisclosure agreements.  When parents protested, a meeting leader said that they were trying to prevent discussions in the media.  Avoiding discussions certainly is a laudable goal, but it's a pipe dream.  When something this incendiary happens in a youth-serving organization, there is no way to prevent rumor and gossip, or comments to the news media.  All an organization can do is figure out how to respond to questions.

I don't know who thought of the nondisclosure agreement, but it sounds like a lawyer trying to go to his or her usual toolbox.  In these situations, however, the usual lawyerly tools don't work and can simply make the problem worse.  It's rarely a good idea to let a lawyer run your public relations strategy.

[A]n official said the forms were necessary because they "didn't want to see discussions in the media."


child abuse, youth serving organizations