There’s certainly something to be said about taking students out of the classroom and into a new and exciting learning environment.
Whether it’s a 10 minute drive or a 10 hour flight, your next school trip will provide some great experiences for your staff and your students. And yet, the very factors that make these events so special can ultimately pose new and unassumed risks that should be considered.
By their very nature, these ventures beyond the comfort of the classroom put travelers in unfamiliar settings, with increased potential for injury, property damage and exposure to a myriad of similar hazards. And that’s just the environmental concerns. There’s also potential for individual medical issues, accidents and similar emergencies that become a bit harder to manage when you’re off site.
With that said, we’re going to focus on two hot topics in regards to these external learning opportunities: school transportation and foreign travel.
The thought of a school transportation-related crash—which involves, either directly or indirectly, a school bus or similar mode of transportation during a trip—is something that no one wants to think about, but it’s crucial to understand the associated risk with such instances.
Unfortunately, the statistics don’t lie. Crash data from the NHTSA show that from 2004 to 2013, there were 1,344 people killed in school-transportation-related crashes—that’s an average of 134 fatalities per year.
It’s a tough figure to process, though an important one to consider.
The result of a school transportation crash can be significant, possibly even more so than a typical car accident, because there are more potential accident victims involved and more responsible parties. Injuries can be more severe due to a lack of safety equipment like airbags and seat belts—let’s not forget the mere size of the vehicle used for transportation.
Having an appropriate response plan in the event of an accident is key. Guidelines for emergency and rescue procedures in the instance of a school transportation related incident should be readily accessible, and all responsible parties should be well-versed in what these protocols are.
For a developing mind, traveling abroad has the potential to increase perspectives and enrich cultural understandings. Embracing and experiencing the way people in other parts of the world live is a crucial opportunity for education and gained experience.
When it is time to take that next big foreign trip, however, having a system in place that will ensure the safety and security of your students is paramount.
Implement best-practice standards and guidance, ensuring that anything specific or unique to your next scheduled travel is considered and communicated within your organization.
Before departing for that next trip, consider the following:
- Emergency procedure and policy
- Student health and well-being
- Effective risk management and prevention
- Liability and insurance
- Institutional support and local resources
- Program supervision and oversight assessment
- Understanding socio-political climate and cultural norms
- Local law (as it pertains to the program and individual student conduct)
Remember that even the most comprehensive training and support may not prepare you for every situation that arises, however, having an established protocol will ensure that the best procedures are enacted and in place just in case the unexpected does occur.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s resources on studying abroad provide some universally applicable tips and suggestions for travel. We recommend you take a look.
The health and safety of students and staff is one of the most significant areas to consider when it comes to your campus community.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of a school community. School administration should drive and coordinate these efforts, and the campus community needs to get behind and support these safety-driven initiatives.
While it is certainly a proactive effort on behalf of everyone involved, it’s also one of the most important. Stay safe, wherever you may be.