I was quite interested in your article about volunteers being used as teachers/service providers, etc. in martial arts schools. My two children attend a school that relies on "volunteer" teachers to run the school. The school claims that you are not "required" to teach, but it encourages it in order to "really learn" the martial art. They institute a teacher training program at the age of 13 for anyone above a certain belt rank. You have to put in approximately 400 hours if you start the training in your early belt ranks as you are not a full teacher until you reach the blue belt rank (which is a little more than half way through the belt system). For some that can be about 5 years. My sons were "encouraged" to be part of the trainee program and we have allowed them to do so. However, we now see how the school "uses" them for just about everything--from cleaning the school, participating in demonstrations to promote the school, assisting in teaching of classes, having "private" students (usually 4-6 year olds in lower belt ranks). All this amounts to less time for their own belt material as they spend so much of it "voluntarily assisting."
The "carrot dangling from the stick" that encourages the students to participate in this "volunteerism" is that if you assist for 6 hours a week you get 6 hours of special training from the Grandmaster and the Master. You can't attend these special 3 hour sessions (twice at week) unless you've put in your time to get to a full instructor (in essence, you give and we give back). The carrot for my oldest child is the chance to be trained for full contact fighting (which is not part of the normal training). As it turns out, they won't train him because he is not old enough.
I was wondering if you could tell me if there has been any government intervention with regarding to this type of practice being a violation of the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards) or Child Labor Laws. The law specifically speaks to commercial businesses being prohibited from using volunteers as employees. If one reviews the "trainee" section of the Act, these schools are still violating the law. Do you know of anything that has established precedent with regard to the legality of this use of students?
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