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Requirements for School District Policies Governing Late Night & Overnight School Sponsored Student Travel

  1. Overview of the Recent Law on Late Night & Overnight School Sponsored Student Travel

    Chapter 346 of the Acts of 2002, An Act Relative to Safety of School Sponsored Travel, was enacted on October 9, 2002. This legislation created a new section of the General Laws (M.G.L. c.71 s.37N) which requires each school committee to establish a policy governing late night & overnight school sponsored student travel by January 7, 2005.

    Section 37N. Each school committee shall establish a policy concerning student travel sponsored by a school that is planned to occur between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m., or that will include an overnight stay away from a student's home. The policy shall address, but not be limited to, such issues as safety of transportation and accommodations, cost, including expectations for fundraising by students, time away from school, appropriateness of the trip for the grade level and the trip approval process. In adopting its policy, the school committee shall consider the model policy drafted by the board of education under section 1B of chapter 69.

  2. How to Implement the Law on Late Night & Overnight School Sponsored Student Travel

    Many districts already have policies in place regarding field trips and other off-site activities that can form the basis for the policy mandated under section 37N. The Board of Education has adopted a model policy (see below) to assist school committees in developing their own policies. Existing policies should be reviewed, and amended if needed, after consideration of the Board's model policy. The points enumerated in the Board's model policy are not mandatory; school committees should take into account local needs and preferences in adopting their own policies on trips planned to include late night and overnight travel.

    School committees are strongly encouraged to consult with legal counsel as they revise their existing policies and develop new ones. Policies addressing these issues must be adopted by the school committee no later than January 7, 2005.

  3. Model Policy (adopted by the Board of Education December 16, 2003)

    1. Trip Approval Process
      1. Advance approval by the school committee should be required for any student trip involving late night or overnight travel.
      2. The approval process should be completed prior to engaging students in fundraising activities or other preparations for the trip.
      3. Overnight trips should offer significant educational benefits to students that clearly justify the time and expense of the trip. Such trips should be appropriate for the grade level.
      4. Teachers and other school staff should be prohibited from soliciting privately run trips through the school system. The trip approval process should apply only to school-sanctioned trips; school committees should not approve trips that are privately organized and run without school sanctioning.
      5. Policies and procedures for trip approval should take into account all logistical details involving transportation, accommodations, fundraising required of students, and the educational value of the trip in relation to its costs.

    2. Transportation
      1. The use of vans or private automobiles for trips planned to include late night or overnight student travel should generally be avoided. Such trips should generally use commercial motorcoaches.
      2. Trips planned to include late night or overnight student travel should involve pre-trip checks of companies, drivers, and vehicles.
      3. School officials should ensure that the selected carrier is licensed for passenger transportation by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The district should not contract with any carrier that has an FMCSA safety rating of "conditional" or "unsatisfactory." FMCSA carrier ratings are available at Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) System.
      4. Districts which are unable to conduct their own in-depth reviews of bus carrier qualifications may elect to use ratings and prequalifications established by other public entities, such as the Department of Defense's approved list of motor carriers for troop transport.
      5. The contract with the carrier should prohibit the use of a subcontractor unless sufficient notice is given to the district to allow verification of the subcontractor's qualifications.

    3. Trip Scheduling
      1. Overnight accommodations should be made in advance with student safety and security in mind. Whenever possible, the trip schedulers should avoid planning student travel between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., due to the increased risk of vehicular accidents during this time period.
      2. Whenever possible, overnight trips should be scheduled on weekends or during school vacations to minimize lost classroom time. Non-academic field trips are considered "optional school programs" and do not count toward meeting structured learning time requirements under 603 CMR 27.00. However, academic field trips may be considered structured learning time (see the Department's Student Learning Time Regulations Guide). School districts may consider travel for field trips as included in students' schedules, but the Department recommends that schools consider scheduling additional structured learning time when significant travel time is anticipated (i.e., time outside the hours of the regular school day).
      3. Trip itineraries must leave enough time for drivers to rest in conformity with federal hour-of-service requirements and common sense.
      4. Trip scheduling should take into account the likelihood of delays due to weather, traffic, stragglers, and other unanticipated factors.
      5. If substantially all members of a class are participating in a trip, the school should provide appropriate substitute activities for any students not participating.

    4. Fundraising
      1. The amount of time to be devoted to fundraising should be reasonable and commensurate with students' obligations for homework, after-school activities, and jobs.
      2. Group fundraising activities are preferred. Students should not be assigned individual fundraising targets.
      3. If students are charged individual fees for participation, the district should make every effort to provide scholarships where needed.

    5. Student Supervision
      1. Students shall be accompanied by a sufficient number of chaperones, taking into account the trip scheduling and logistics. All chaperones, including parents and volunteers, must have a CORI check in accordance with M.G.L. c.71 s.38R.
      2. CORI checks are recommended but not required by law for bus drivers who do not regularly work for the school district and who will not have direct and unmonitored contact with students. If such checks cannot be done, a chaperone must always be present whenever students are on the bus.
      3. All participating students must submit a signed parent/guardian permission form. Such form shall include appropriate authorization for emergency medical care and administration of medication.

  4. Additional Useful Resources

    1. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

    2. United Motorcoach Association - Student Motorcoach Travel Best Practices Manual (includes "Motorcoach Safety Checklist")

Last Updated: December 17 2003

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