School district correct to veto 'once-in-a-lifetime trip'
Hernando TodayThe issue: Exotic school field trips. Our opinion: Liability too high for school district to sanction.
Published: June 12, 2010
Published: June 12, 2010
Imagine being part of a Hernando County high school theater group that gets invited to attend the 2011 American High School Theatre Festival in Edinburg, Scotland.
Imagine the learning experience you and your classmates would have in an exotic foreign country, far from the shores of Pine Island Beach.
Imagine having to try to raise $90,000 for the chance to perform overseas.
Imagine the school district saying no way.
That's what happened last week to the students in Lori Erickson's drama class at Nature Coast Technical High School. The group had been invited as "one of the winners" to attend the festival. They were excited about the challenge of raising $90,000 to go. They were disappointed when school board members voted against the idea.
We can understand their disappointment. Such "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities are rare.
However, school board members made the right decision.
There's far too much liability involved in sanctioning a group of high school students to take a trip to a foreign land.
What if their plane crashed? What if they became seriously ill? What if someone disappeared?
Who would be responsible?
Bad things can happen to good people. Look what happened to Natalie Holloway.
Putting youngsters in a risky situation is something the school district has no business endorsing.
That's not to say the students shouldn't go on such exotic field trips. However, they should be accomplished outside the realm and jurisdiction of school. Then the school district (read taxpayers) is not liable should something unforeseen happen.
The liability for such trips should rest with the parents. They are responsible for their children - not the school board, not the taxpayers. If parents want their children to participate in such activities and the opportunities that come with them, then that's their choice.
At a cost of $6,000 per student, that a big chunk of choice. Unreasonable, really.
School board member Dianne Bonfield had some sage words of wisdom.
"It becomes less of something that a school earns and more about something you can participate in if you have the money," she said, adding that groups wanting to travel outside the county operate privately, instead of being sanctioned by the school board.
"I would have a difficult time approving for any group to take a trip overseas," Bonfield added. "That's a major, major, major undertaking and it can be very dangerous."
School board member Pat Fagan is also correct. The board needs to take a close look at the district's policy on field trips and make sure it's perfectly clear. That way, no one gets disappointed and groups can make other accommodations to ensure youngsters get to take advantage of those "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities.