Friday, April 22, 2016

Field Trip Issues

The District is definitely having trouble around field trips.

There has always been incidents of misbehavior on field trips but they didn't get much publicity until the report of a rape on a Garfield High School field trip to NatureBridge. The review of that incident revealed the lax supervision that was practiced and the total neglect of the policies and procedures.

Then came stricter field trip procedures, then talk that overnight field trips just wouldn't happen anymore, then their return, then the misbehavior and procedure violations on a Garfield Choir trip to New Orleans, and now the trouble over including all Stevens Elementary fifth graders on a field trip.

Is there a single flaw at the root of all of these problems or are these all separate issues? We have a problem when students with a history of sexual harassment are allowed on a field trip (New Orleans), when they are allowed on the field trip without extra supervision (New Orleans), when they are not allowed on a field trip (Stevens), when the extra supervision is requested (Stevens), and when the extra supervision is denied (Stevens), and when the field trip is cancelled because the teachers don't feel well supported and refuse to accept the liability (Stevens).

Can there be a resolution to these problems?


Eric B said...

I think the pendulum swung waaaay too far after the Garfield NatureBridge trip. Requiring multiple bed checks in the night is frankly creepy, since there's absolutely no way to see if someone is in their bed in most hotel rooms without going in to the foot of the beds. Also, if students know there are bed checks at 2am, they'll just be there at 2am and go do whatever else before and after. There are some simple things that would substitute (eg tape across the door frame after checking everyone is in their rooms).

Also, there should be some basic rules about consequences for teachers/chaperones not doing their jobs on field trips. Is it the teachers' job to control chaperones' behavior? That puts the teacher in a really difficult if not impossible situation. Teachers should be protected from liability if they made reasonable efforts to meet reasonable rules.

Anonymous said...

As I recall, the alleged suspect/rapist in the Naturebridge case had a history of inappropriate sexual behavior dating back to middle school. Follows the same pattern as New Orleans, a known offender allowed on a field trip without the staff/chaperones aware of the situation.


Patrick said...

Eric B, of course you don't announce "there will be one bed check at 2 AM", you announce "there will be bed checks" and don't say how many or when. A look by a chaperone of the same sex as the students who are (supposed to be) in the room doesn't seem creepy to me. Putting tape around the door could be combined with the bed checks.

Anonymous said...

The district is (in my opinion) primarily to blame for not properly alerting field trip teachers and chaperones to students with known serious behavioral histories on those trips. Secondly, chaperones and teachers must also shoulder a bit of the blame for not following field trip rules and guidelines down to the letter, especially in light of all that's gone very wrong in recent years.

However, going forward, as Eric B says above, it is not at all fair to make teachers liable and to put their future employment at risk if they choose to take their students on a trip. Teachers will simply (and understandably) refuse to go. Parents will refuse to chaperone. The reality is that problems will continue to happen and some students will continue to misbehave. However, I don't think this need spell the end of field trips forever. There must be some way to contract with a non-SPS entity for insurance and liability issues, and for parents to "sign off" on field trips in full knowledge of all the risks involved for their children. Field trips are an important part of many students' education, especially those who might not otherwise be able to take such trips. To forego field trips completely because of the potential risks involved seems foolhardy, in its own way, impoverishing the educational experience for so many future students.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Eric B, it seems creepy as a chaperone to be unlocking hotel room doors during the night, tiptoeing into rooms in the dark to try to see who is in which bed. I like using the tape better. Bed check systems & times are prescribed on a new form this year required weeks ahead of the trip & passed around to staff & parents. Not exactly top secret & probably similar to others with same teacher.

-HS Parent

madpark said...

District to blame? How is it the principal gets a walk on things like this?

If the buck doesn't stop there, then stop paying them like it does.

Anonymous said...

This comment is totally separate from how the field trips are run.

I'm probably in the minority but having not grown up with this tradition of 5th grade camping I find it very odd. I'd much prefer to have a full week of regular instructional time and not spend the money elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

Puzzled-outsider, you are not alone in your puzzlement. Camping may be fun, and it may be beneficial to students who don't get the opportunity to camp with their families, and it may be a nice team-building or valedictory event, but there are some of us who think it is not the school's job to provide overnight camping trips for students. Team-building and celebrations can take place during the school day. There are plenty of organizations like the YMCA and the Audubon Society that provide camping opportunities (often with scholarships) for students whose families don't or can't go camping. The educational benefit is not always worth expense and the logistical complications of taking public school students on overnight trips.

That said, when you promise to take the whole fifth grade on a trip, and cancel at the last minute, that is really not okay.


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