Is safety our top priority every time we take a group of students off campus?
Issue 6 | Volume 4 | 2015
SPOTLIGHT TOPIC - STUDENT TRAVEL
1. When it comes to any type of school travel, all stakeholders must be aware that safety is priority one. Period. Do not be presumptuous and assume that is consistently the case. In many situations, the safety of all participants is, at best, an afterthought.
2. Planning and preparation are critical whether it is routine team travel or a French Club trip to Paris. Most of us plan and prepare extensively for overnight and/or international travel. Few of us prepare effectively for ‘routine’ trips or excursions. Preplanning of all details involving all stakeholders involved in all types of school travel is key.
3. Students must clearly understand the parameters that come with being allowed to participate in any activity that includes leaving the school campus for any period of time. An official code of conduct must not only address, in detail, expected behavior, but also clarify in advance the consequences of acting in violation of that code.
4. Never assume that your teacher or coach has diligently shared school policies and behavioral expectations with students about to embark on a van, bus or plane trip. Put in place written protocols that ensure that teachers/coaches/advisors are required to do just that.
5. Always make certain that parents are aware and have acknowledged students expectations and potential consequences as they pertain to off-campus travel and behavior of any type. Parents don’t like surprises and neither do their attorneys.
6. It is imperative that parent chaperones are in agreement that once they assume that role, they are responsible to act as chaperones and not as a participant’s parent. Many parents volunteer to chaperone when what they really want to do is accompany their child on a school trip. That can be a recipe for unanticipated problems.
7. If it is decided to allow students or parents to drive to a school-sanctioned activity, written protocols must be in place. Approved professional drivers/transportation should
always be the goal. No student or parent should drive to a school-sanctioned event unless they have met certain expectations. Driving others to a school event can result in a host of serious consequences.
8. Official background checks and child sexual abuse prevention education should be required for all volunteers, student teachers and overnight chaperones who might have unsupervised access to students either on or off school property. That is critical regarding the social emotional health of all concerned, especially of our students.
9. Emergency plans and procedures must be clear and available to parents and teachers. Yes, serious situations often arise when traveling. The time to plan with how to deal with them is well before the group embarks on its journey. Pre-planning also helps to minimize panic and emphasize necessary processes needed to make for a successful experience. Specifics of that trip policy can and should differ depending upon the type of travel, the age of the participants, the expected challenges and concerns and other important factors.
10. In closing, every school needs a clear written trip policy outlining all requirements, expectations, and necessary processes needed to make for a successful experience. Specifics of that trip policy can and should differ depending upon the type of travel, the age of the participants, the expected challenges and concerns and other important factors.
Student travel is a $15 billion per year industry.
80% of those adults recently surveyed by Wyse Travel Confederation stated that educational travel sparked greater interest in what they were taught in school.
More than 300,000 students travel abroad each year.
33% of the total risk to students relates to highway travel and another 10% happens on boats, planes and trains.
More than 25% of the total risk associated with student travel is drowning.
75% of all safety incidents happened when students are unsupervised.
Seattle public schools paid a $700,000 settlement to the parents of a girl who said she was sexually assaulted by a classmate on a field trip in 2014.
"Where field trips make sense in terms of the school’s educational mission and budget, the focus should be on proper preparation, adequate supervision, and carefully followed procedures."...Perry A. Zirkel, Professor of Education and Law at Lehigh University.
Heathwood Hall Episcopal School (Columbia, SC) Long known for innovative experiential learning at all grade levels, Heathwood has extended its learning well beyond its campus through their unique hands-on learning program, Winterim. For one week each March, Heathwood Upper School students pursue an interest to broaden their educational experience through travel, an internship or a job shadow opportunity, or a workshop environment.
Winterim experiences are local, national, and international. Each focuses on at least one of five main focus areas: academic and cultural enrichment, leadership, service, wilderness education, and internships. All students are required to experience at least one internship during their four years in Upper School. In recent years, Winterim trips have taken Heathwood students to more than 20 countries on five continents.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
International travel is a vital part of the opportunities offered by many independent schools as they seek to incorporate unique experiences for both educational and service-oriented reasons. When schools are planning international trips, several issues should be considered.
First, what is the overall climate of the destination country? Is there political unrest or threat of the same? Are there upcoming elections that could lead to protests or government shutdowns? Are there any current travel advisories issued by the U.S. State Department for citizens? Much closer to the time of the trip, determine if there are threats of a major weather event, wildfires, etc.
Second, schools should ensure that known or potential health risks and advisories, that may exist during specific seasons and for certain regions, are shared with parents and students. For example, if a trip is planned to a Central American country during malaria season, parents should be notified of the potential risks and necessary precautions recommended by experts. An ultimately unnecessary but prophylactic dose of quinine is better than a case of malaria.
Information related to country conditions should be shared with students and parents both initially as they are making initial travel decisions and closer to the time of the trip if circumstances change. Based on the unique circumstances of each trip, also consider the pros and cons of travel insurance.
Finally, schools should carefully plan how their students will carry and consume prescribed medications that are controlled substances. (Think Adderall, not Advil; Zoloft, not Zantac) Many schools require students to provide a designated adult with all medications at the start of a trip, along with detailed instructions signed by a parent and/or physician depending on the medication. In the case of international trips, schools also need to consider the laws of the destination country regarding controlled substances and who is permitted to carry/administer them. Schools should notify students of the often severe penalties for sharing or failing to safeguard controlled substances that exist in some countries. Detailed permission forms clarifying rules and expectations related to the transport and use of medications are very important when traveling to international destinations.
Domestic and international trips are a vital part of many independent school experiences, exposing students to other cultures, governments, foods and living conditions. The tips and considerations contained in this article are general in nature – obviously there are great differences in planning and executing a food/culture visit to Montreal and a service project in an impoverished village in a developing country.
If planned properly, which must include detailed communications with parents, there is no reason to fear international trips. Embrace the great unknown!
It's important to always seek out legal advice from your school attorney. This column is not intended to be legal guidance.
ALLISON AIKEN HANNA PARTNER
THE TOWER AT 1301 GERVAIS STREET, SUITE 1400
PO BOX 11367 | COLUMBIA, SC 29211
School trips: Don’t let safety take a holiday.
School trips can provide expansive educational opportunities that you just can’t get in a classroom. There are key safety concerns to think of before any school trip. Preparation and ongoing communication are keys to safe, healthy travel.
Here are some key points to consider. Use this list as a starting point, and think about what else you might need to address to prepare for your school’s specific trip.
Avoid the “Illusion of Safety.” In my work with Kidpower International, I have learned a lot about the danger of the “Illusion of Safety.” It is natural for a trip to be a fun activity that is outside of everyday life. But, you still have to be aware of safety, even more on a trip than in everyday surroundings. Have you ever felt like “the calories I eat on vacation don’t count,” or, “this is just a short taxi ride, I don’t need to wear a seatbelt”? That is the kind of “vacation mindset thinking” that we need to become aware of and replace with a safety mindset for school trips.
Be aware of your new surroundings and play it safe. Participants should put away their cell phones and pay attention to their surroundings. Awareness is key in so many ways, from protecting pedestrian safety, to avoiding being targeted as a tourist for pickpocketing or assault.
Who’s in charge and what’s the plan? Trip leaders should be clear about what the plan is each day and what the rules are on the trip. Ask your trip leaders about sleeping arrangements and adult supervision. Will students be allowed to explore areas on their own, and if so, what rules guide their exploration? Adult leaders should practice “two-deep leadership.”
Know the rules. Review the rules and laws at your destination. For school trips, I highly recommend that drug and alcohol use should never be permitted, even if consumption is legal at the trip’s destination.
Who else will be leading activities? International trips in particular will almost always rely on in-country teams to lead activities, in addition to leaders from your school. For any activity, at home or on a trip, ask three questions. 1. Are the activity leaders qualified to lead the activity? 2. Do they know how to run the activity safely? 3. Do the leaders specifically know how to run a program for youth? Imagine a trip that includes zip lining or scuba diving—these are crucial safety considerations, and students may need advance training, such as scuba certification.
Focus on transportation. Ask about what kinds of vehicles your students will be transported in. Try to make sure that seatbelts are provided and that drivers are qualified. Avoid large 12 to 15-passenger vans as much as possible. These vehicles are unacceptably risky for several reasons. Visit www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/15-passenger-vans for more information.
Amy Tiemann PhD is a child safety expert, the co-author of Doing Right by Our Kids—Protecting Child Safety at All Levels, and a Kidpower International Senior Leader.
Twitter: @AmyTiemann PhD and @DoingRight
WorldStrides Educational Partnerships - International Studies Abroad
This month, we introduce you to WorldStrides Educational Partnerships - International Studies Abroad, whose mission is ‘Igniting Personal Growth Through Educational Travel and Study Abroad.’ ISA is committed to ensuring the health and safety of its students throughout their time abroad. In accordance with NAFSA recommendations and the Department of Health, Safety, and Security, ISA's code of conduct details clear guidelines designed to empower students to behave in a manner that decreases their risk and enriches their study abroad experience.
We asked WorldStrides Director of Partnerships, Jorge Giroud, to share some key points with schools when choosing a potential travel partner.
“When considering a travel partner organization for your school, make sure you can check the following items off the list: Extensive liability coverage, global infrastructure, embedded medical insurance and dedicated 24/7 support. Without these core services and coverage, you should be looking for another provider.”
Keep them healthy. Depending on your trip’s destination, vaccinations or preventative medicine may be needed. Equip your student with required prescriptions, permission slips, and insurance card. For locations with water or food that may upset stomachs, make sure that trip preparation discusses basic food safety practices. An upset stomach can really ruin a trip!
Ask for help with problems - Let your child know that if they have a safety problem, they should ask for help from their trip leaders when possible, and call you if necessary. Then, step back, don’t hover, and let them go have a great time!
Concern for the health of your students is obviously an everyday priority. However, the challenge of keeping your students healthy intensifies whenever they are away from campus and still ‘on your watch.’
It is critical that you have a detailed policy about drug and alcohol use in place for traveling students.
This is particularly imperative for trips to countries that lawfully allow young adults to drink or do drugs. This policy should be clear, as should the consequences of violating the policy. This policy should be in the student handbook, as well as noted on the release form itself.
The recent case of school that allowed their students to drink local beer after service work in a brutally hot climate because the water was not safe to drink comes to mind. Regardless of local custom, this showed both poor planning and then poor judgement by the school. In short, it is never advisable to provide, or even allow, alcohol on a student trip.
Make certain that parents and students all understand the potential consequences of traveling with an illegal substance, including marijuana.
Your pre-planning cannot ignore the potential need for medical treatment while away from campus.
Be mindful of how your students would get treatment in case of an emergency based on specific research of your destination. If there is no hospital for miles, who is First Aid/CPR trained? Do your teachers have paper copies of permission to treat forms?
Don’t assume. Try accessing your student database from a mountain in North Carolina. Learn of the challenges of making a cell call from a zipline attraction in Guatemala.
Do not ignore the as well as the spectre of prescription (or nonprescription) drugs you students may be required to take while away from campus.
Have very clear instructions from parents via your school health professional about the what, how and when that accompanies their child’s medication.
Often forgotten is your school should be mindful when travelling both domestically and internationally of the local laws regarding controlled substances, especially with so many young people having prescriptions. No, it is generally not considered illegal to carry AD/HD medication as long as the person carrying the medication is the person for whom the medication has been properly prescribed. However, depending on the state in which one lives (e.g. New York), state law may require that the medication be carried in the original prescription bottle with a current label that identifies the person for whom the medication is intended. In other states, proof of prescription is generally considered sufficient.
It is extremely important to know what is allowed in your destination country for student travel beyond our borders. For example, some prescription medications such as Adderall, and including some medications available over-the-counter in the U.S. are prohibited in Japan.