A teenage boy is killed and another student injured when a flatbed truck collides in a rural area with a school bus carrying students on a field trip to see a musical.
Seven fifth-grade students and a teacher are injured when a pair of charter buses returning from a field trip crash.
Fourteen children and four adults suffer injuries after a crash involving a school bus and three other vehicles on an interstate.
Crashes and field trips. They happen much too frequently, and now that spring has sprung, we’re definitely in high season for trips to the museum, historical sites and amusement parks.
How can schools keep students safe during school outings while also protecting themselves from related liabilities? Here are four tips:
- Create a Clear Safety Policy for Field Trips/Outings
Travel policies should explain that trips away from campus typically have an educational purpose and should be given the same respect and consideration as any educational experience. These policies make clear that the school approaches these endeavors seriously and helps ensure that those on the trips will do the same. Both K-12 schools and colleges should implement policies specifically for how to keep students safe during outings and how to react if a student gets injured. A student travel policy should address key questions such as:
- Who will be responsible for overseeing student safety during trips?
- What steps should be taken before trips to improve student safety?
- What safety measures can be taken during outings?
- How many chaperones are needed based on student trip attendance to help ensure safety?
- What will be the protocols if a student gets injured?
- Consider Safety Measures for Each Outing Specifically
The types of injuries that could be incurred depend on the outing type. Of course, bus rides and other transportation to and from the destination pose their own risks. But going to a museum is very different from going to an amusement park in terms of the potential hazards involved.
School administrators and instructors should consider in advance the types of hazards involved with each particular outing and plan for how to cope with them. Any volunteer chaperones should also be given specific instructions for what is expected of them and what to do if a student is injured. Such troubleshooting also helps instructors and school staff think through important trip specifics, such as what types of clothing and other gear students should bring on a trip. (For example, school staff will likely want to remind students to wear sunscreen if the outing involves a long day in the sun.)
Also, teachers need to be assured that their authority while on the trip is that much more pronounced, and students need to have boundaries that are well-defined.
- Keep Students Accountable, Too
Laying out rules for students during outings in advance can help prevent injuries. For example, depending on the outing destination and age of the student, it might be required that students stick together in groups of two or larger – or that everyone in on the trip always stays together. Giving students specifics on what they will need to bring on the trip to make it comfortable and safe, such as what to wear – or not to wear – can also protect against injuries.
- Use Carefully Drafted Release Forms
All schools should obtain releases from parents. Releases should contain more than a basic disclaimer of liability and a parent’s signature. They also need to give the parent enough information to knowingly sign the release. Without such knowledge, the release may be found meaningless by a court. Accordingly, the release should include at least the following items:
- Name of parents and student
- Trip Details
- Objective of trip: why is this trip being taken?
- Itinerary: what are the exact details?
- Student activities: what will the students be doing, particularly if they will be required to participate in physically demanding or somewhat dangerous events.
- Equipment and supplies: anything the students should bring with them.
- Transportation plan: all of the details. When, where, and how
- Costs and expenses anticipated: mandatory costs and a notation of any discretionary money that may be needed by the student. (e.g.: if time will be provided for students to shop at a gift store, etc.).
- Medical authorization: this information should include a physician’s name and number, as well as an emergency number for either or both parents, and a release for the overseeing adult on the trip to make at least initial medical decision on behalf of the parents until the parents or other emergency contacts can be reached.
- Hold harmless clause: the following is sample language. Schools should consult their counsel to assure that the language covers any peculiarities in state law:
[Parent’s name] agrees to release and hold harmless [school name, administrators, and chaperones] from any and all liability, loss, damages, claims, or actions for bodily injury and/or property damage arising out of participation in this trip, in accordance with current state and federal law.
Advanced planning is a big part of keeping students safe during field trips and protecting the school from liability. The more school staff and chaperones are prepared and know what risks are involved, the better equipped they will be.
Morgan P. Mahoney, an Insurance Advisor at CCIG, handles the risk management and insurance needs of commercial childcare and school accounts. Reach him at 720-330-7926 or Morgan.Mahoney@thinkccig.com.
CCIG is a Denver-area insurance brokerage with the full-service capabilities of a national brokerage. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We also help you lower your long-term cost of risk with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.