School Business Affairs February 2019 SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS | FEBRUARY 2019 29 legal and legislative issues Planning for all contingencies helps keep students safe. Field Trips and School Safety By Charles J. Russo, J.D., Ed.D. S pringtime with its warmer weather usually signals an increase in school field trips. Whether it’s a day trip to a local museum or zoo, or a multi- day trip to Washington, D.C., or New York City, education leaders must ensure staff and students travel safely. In large part, safety involves adequate supervision—and it’s that element that often sends districts to court. Consider three cases from New York. A sixth-grader on a field trip to a local park was given permission by the supervis- ing teacher to leave the area for lunch. The teacher noted the student was missing when the buses were ready to depart the park, searched the park, then left without the student. The bus stopped at the student’s home and the parent was informed of the disappearance; the teacher didn’t report the missing student to school officials. Meanwhile, the student, realizing she had missed the bus back to school, decided to walk home alone. She was accosted on the street by local adolescents and taken to one student’s home, where she was raped. When they released her, she ran home, informed her mother of the incident, and her mother called the police. The students were arrested and pleaded guilty to first degree rape. The student’s parent filed suit and New York’s highest court ruled that the school board was liable because evidence supported a jury’s verdict that the rape was a foresee- able result of the danger created by the failure of educators to supervise the outing adequately ( Bell v. Board of Education of the City of N.Y. , 1998). In another case, a suit was filed on behalf of a kindergartener who was thrown from her seat and injured during a hay ride when the wagon hit a bump in the road ( David v. City of N.Y. , 2007). The court ruled in favor of the school board, noting that the 40 chil- dren on the field trip were accompanied by 12 adults, one of whom was seated next to the child who was tossed from her seat, so supervision was adequate. In addition, the educators had no knowledge or notice that a hay ride would be hazardous to the child, so the board did not breach its duty of supervision to protect the student from an unforeseeable injury. An appellate court in New York modi- fied a jury verdict in favor of a mother who sued a school board for pain and suffer- ing plus intentional infliction of emotional distress after her 14-year-old son drowned while on a field trip to an amusement park ( Marcello v. Board of Education of the City of N.Y. , 2005). The chaperones had allowed the students to be on their own in the park and did not realize the student was missing until everyone had left the park at closing. The students and staff left the park at 7:00 p.m. and arrived back at school at 9:00 p.m., at which time the school administrators noti- fied the mother that her son was missing. At 1:00 a.m., maintenance workers discovered his body in the wave pool. The mother claimed that the school failed to issue safety procedures and the students outnumbered chaperones 23-1. The attor- neys for the school board contended that the student’s death was caused by the failure of the park lifeguards to respond to shouts from the students at approximately 3:30 p.m. that the boy had gone under water. In the end, the court agreed that the mother should be awarded for the emotional distress caused by the lapse of time in the discovery of her son’s body at the bottom of the pool, along with other actions by the board in the aftermath of the accident. MONKEY BUSINESS/STOCK.ADOBE.COM