Stricter field trip policy gets Fayette school board approval

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJanuary 27, 2014 

Fayette Co. School Superintendent Tom Shelton talked about a proposed new high school, during an afternoon news conference held at the Fayette Co. Board of Education, 701 East Main St., in Lexington, Ky., Monday, December 16, 2013. The school board hopes to build a new high school off Winchester Rd. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff

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A stricter policy for school related student trips that focuses on safety and chaperone behavior was approved Monday night by the Fayette County Board of Education.

"We just looked at our whole procedures to see if we had the best possible policies and procedures to ensure the safety of our students," Superintendent Tom Shelton said before the meeting.

The board did not discuss the changes Monday when they approved them.

Under the revised policy, students will have as little "unstructured" or free time as possible during school related student trips.

Chaperones will not be allowed to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or use illegal drugs during the trip. They also will be responsible for students at all times during the trip. Rules for chaperones have not been part of the policy up to this point.

School board member Daryl Love said after the meeting that the revisions "make it really clear the roles and responsibilities of the chaperones. From a safety and security perspective, people know what's expected of them."

School board member Doug Barnett said he had received positive responses from parents.

Shelton said the changes were not the result of a specific issue or trip. He said the changes stemmed from an annual policy review and a look at all trips.

When Shelton assigned a group to make recommendations last summer, he wanted to make sure everyone understood their roles and "that we have clearly defined expectations for what chaperones do."

"Do we have clear forms and data in place to know where all of our students are and what they are doing, who's responsible for them? That's part of the whole analysis of the process," Shelton said before the meeting.

Chaperones will have to be 25 or older, or be employees of the district or parents or legal guardians of students on the trip.

Supervising teachers may relinquish responsibility for a student only to a designated chaperone or another supervising teacher.

The policy nowl requires that teachers be responsible for monitoring chaperones and for making sure that parents know their roles and responsibilities as chaperones.

Chaperones will have to be approved by the school principal and participate in an orientation by the supervising teacher or staff members. Adults will have to sign a form acknowledging their responsibilities and undergo criminal background checks. Chaperones will have to follow the instructions of a teacher in monitoring students. All district policies about student behavior will apply during trips.

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

Adults who are not chaperones but who attend an event included in a school trip will not be subject to the policy, district officials have said.

In making the changes, district officials looked at supervision requirements and roles, and how they are defined. "We changed and enhanced every bit of that within our procedure," Shelton said.

There have been 164 overnight school-related student trips since last May, district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said.

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

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