Hamilton County Schools plan changes to field trip policy

Hamilton County Schools plan changes to field trip policy

October 18th, 2012 by Kevin Hardy in Local Regional News

Donna Horn

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

* What: School board work session and meeting

* When: Work session begins at 4 p.m. today; meeting to follow

* Where: Hamilton County Schools central office, 3074 Hickory Valley Road

POLL: Should schools be able to take trips out of the country?

Seven months after Signal Mountain High School teachers and students came under fire for consuming alcohol on a school-sponsored trip to the Bahamas, some school board members are eyeing a policy change and a possible end to such trips.

The Board of Education will hold a work session today to discuss its field trip policy and to talk about possible changes to next year's school calendar. This is the time of year many teachers and principals turn in trip requests, so officials said it's important to address any changes now.

The field trip issue stems from a March spring break cruise, after which seven Signal Mountain chaperone teachers and 16 students were punished for breaking school policy and drinking alcohol.

Now, several board members are gearing up to nix school-sponsored leisure trips and those that take students out of the country.

"I think trips that are for fun put a lot of responsibility on the school system," said school board member Donna Horn. "If seniors want to have a trip, their parents can organize it on their own time."

Horn said the school district should only be sponsoring trips that are educational in nature.

Board member Rhonda Thurman wants a wider review of field trips. She said those that take students to cities such as New York or Washington, D.C., can cost parents hundreds, which may not be fair if such trips are required for a course grade.

And she said schools shouldn't be taking students across U.S. borders, whether it's for learning or leisure.

"The way things are in this world, I don't think students should be going out of the country," Thurman said. "The world is a very dangerous place."

Board member Greg Martin said he's OK with educational trips to places such as nation's capitol, which offer educational value and unforgettable experiences for students. But safety has to be carefully considered, he said.

"We need to look at those with greater scrutiny," he said.

Martin said he's heard from several teachers who are concerned about safety issues on such trips. One teacher even planned on hiring private security for a trip to Orlando, he said.

But board member George Ricks said he doesn't think any changes to the current policy are necessary. Senior trips shouldn't be stopped because students have worked for years to earn them, he said.

"They work hard. I don't see any reason to take trips away from the kids," Ricks said. "If the parents agreed to send them, I don't see why we should stop it."