Revisions deal with concerns about proposed policy for Fayette school trips

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJanuary 13, 2014 

Students would have as little unstructured time as possible during school trips under proposed policy revisions discussed Monday night by the Fayette County School Board.

Chaperones would have to be 25 or older, be employees of the district, or be parents or legal guardians of students on the trip. Chaperones wouldn't be allowed to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or use illegal drugs during the trip. They also would be responsible for students at all times during the trip.

Supervising teachers could not relinquish responsibility for a student to anyone other than a designated chaperone or another supervising teacher.

School board members are scheduled to vote on the changes, which provide clear expectations for teachers and chaperones, at a meeting Jan. 27. The proposal requires that teachers be responsible for monitoring chaperones and for making sure that parents know their roles and responsibilities as chaperones.

The revised policy gives supervising teachers a streamlined process, Vicki Ritchie, director of school improvement for the district, said after Monday's meeting. "It was due for an overhaul."

District staff first proposed revisions to the school trip policy at a board planning meeting in November. Board members had so many questions that the issue was tabled.

Board member Amanda Ferguson said then that there were a lot of gray areas in the proposal.

At Monday night's planning meeting, school superintendent Tom Shelton said he thought most of those questions and concerns had been dealt with. Board members generally did not voice concerns about the policy during the meeting.

A team assembled by Shelton started to work on revisions to the school trip policy last summer. Rules for chaperones are not part of the current policy.

Here are some details of the proposal:

  • Chaperones would have to be approved by the school principal and would be required to participate in an orientation by the supervising teacher or staff members. Adults would have to sign a form acknowledging their responsibilities and undergo criminal background checks.

  • Chaperones would have to agree to monitor students the way the supervising teacher told them to. Chaperones who violate the policy could be removed from the trip and might have to pay for their travel home.

  • While riding on buses, chaperones would have to sit among the students, instead of with other adults, to monitor student behavior. Late evening and overnight bus rides would require separation of students by gender. When students of both genders are on a trip, chaperones would have to be of both genders.

  • Children of official chaperones who are not members of the student group participating in the trip may not be permitted to accompany their parents on the trip.

  • All district policies about student behavior would apply during trips. Supervising teachers could limit or confiscate a student's personal property during the trip, for example.

  • If adults are riding on a school bus or school-chartered bus, every adult on the bus would have to be an officially designated chaperone.

Adults who are not chaperones who attend an event included in a school trip would not subject to the policy, Ritchie said.

Shelton said the policy revisions, if approved, would apply to trips taken in the spring.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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