Are school field trip permission forms too inclusive?

One of our regular readers sent me a note about school permission slips. Her kids go to school in Cobb County and she is bothered by how completely the permission forms seem to clear the school of any responsibility to your child. Here’s what she wrote:

“I’m not sure if you’ve covered this topic before, but I was wondering about your, and other parent’s, take on the “waiver” that appears on permission slips for field trips – at least in Cobb County. If you read it carefully, it says you agree to fully “hold harmless” the school, school system, etc. under ANY circumstances if your child is participating in the field trip. This sounds to me that the trip supervisor could sit and watch the bus driver consume alcohol then load up the kids and go. If your student willingly gets on the bus and an accident occurs because of the driver’s impairment and your child is injured, oh well – you’ve already agreed you won’t make a claim against the school or any of its agents.”

“Not only that, but you also agree to reimburse the school system in case any claim, made by ANYONE, is made if it occurs as a result of your student being a part of (i.e ”participating in “) the field trip. This sounds broad enough to cover the school, but what about us? I don’t want to reimburse the school system if something goes wrong just because my child happened to be participating in the field trip unless it was a direct result of my child’s inappropriate or negligent behavior.”

I’m no lawyer but that’s how I read it. I usually write in at the bottom “except where negligence is evident” but I’m not sure how much that covers me. Here’s the wording from permission slip:

“I release and waive, and further agree to indemnify, hold harmless or reimburse the Cobb County School District, the Board of Education, its successors and assigns, its members, agents, employees, and representative thereof, as well as trip supervisors, from and against any claim which I, any other parent or guardian, any sibling, the student, or any other person, firm or corporation may have or claim to have, known or unknown, directly or indirectly, from any losses, damages or injuries arising out of, during or in connection with the student’s participation in the trip or the rendering of emergency medical procedures or treatment, if any.

So what do you guys think: Are you comfortable letting the schools take your children on field trips? Are you comfortable signing this type of waiver? Do you actually read the permission slips they bring home? Did you worry they were too inclusive even if your child did get hurt?

52 comments Add your comment

Andrea

April 29th, 2010
10:20 am

I always wondered if there was a way to still hold the district responsible if there was obvious negligence. If someone has that answer, I would like to know.

FIELD TRIP!

April 29th, 2010
10:31 am

Andrea, no form can relieve someone of their legal liability in the case of gross negligence.

I don’t remember signing any permission trips for my son. Maybe they sent a single form home at the beginning of the school year and I just doon’t remember. However, they definetely don’t send one everytime they go somewhere. He has been on 3 field trips this year and each time I have been surprised to find out about it after the fact.

TechMom

April 29th, 2010
10:40 am

I think of these forms as a CYA for the schools even though they know full well they are just as responsible for your kid at school as they are on a field trip.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

April 29th, 2010
10:42 am

I think if I’ve gotten to the point where I’m making my decision on whether or not to send my kid on a field trip based upon my chances of winning a lawsuit against the school, I’ve become part of the problem.

JATL

April 29th, 2010
10:42 am

I would also be very interested in hearing an attorney address this issue. I tend to agree, especially with our litigious society, that if the school is grossly negligent (including its faculty and staff), then you could sue or counter-sue. If a bus driver tokes up in the parking lot while the kiddies are at the zoo, and then has a big wreck on the way home -no way you’re NOT going to be able to sue on that one! Plus, these permission slips aren’t notarized or witnessed like official legal documents.

Most people are dumb

April 29th, 2010
10:47 am

It would be nice if the schools took the children to a factory farm instead of the tourist attraction farms they do now. I mean, instead of the little place where the chickens run free, take them to the farms where the school lunches are made.

Watch the childrens’ faces light up as they see row upon row of chickens too heavy with steroids to stand up being boiled alive. The kids will marvel with delight to see where yesterday’s meatloaf was raised. “You see kids, often times the cattle is too weak to stand due to the medicines we pump into them and due to their overeating of corn. The corn is not good for them, but its cheap. So, when the cows can’t walk over to be slaughtered, we use a bulldozer to push them to the bolt gunner who shoots a bolt into their skull. This usually kills them on the first or second try.”

Did you have a nice time at the farm Billy?

lmno

April 29th, 2010
10:49 am

Again, the permission slips offer very limited protection against lawsuits. If the school is proven neglegent, they will be held liable.

catlady

April 29th, 2010
10:51 am

For my PhD, we were taught in the Law class that you get the waiver. Don’t take the student without one, even if the parent pledges over the phone that it is okay. If parents want to sue you they will regardless. If you have been negligent, they will win. If you have not, they may win anyway.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

April 29th, 2010
10:59 am

If one is so wrapped up with this issue, I think the parent should just sue the school BEFORE the field trip for the school attempting to limit their ability to sue just in case anything does happen. I’m sure there is a personal attorney out there willing to file that lawsuit.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

April 29th, 2010
11:00 am

meant “personal injury attorney”….or in this case “personal no injury has happened yet, but I’m willing to sue on behalf of a paranoid family anyway attorney”

CPT

April 29th, 2010
11:03 am

Why does the school system care so much about lawsuits? Won’t they just raise taxes to cover their expenses? Private institutions have to be concerned about this, but why pubic ones?

lmno

April 29th, 2010
11:11 am

CPT, I don’t know what hole you have been living in, but the County Governments are not even considering a millage increase despite the fact that our schools are being gutted. They refuse to even think of a tax hike even at the expense of teachers and students. In Dekalb county they are cutting their best programs and laying off hundreds of people. They will increase class sizes. They will fire. They will close. They will cut. But they will not under any circumstances raise taxes even one mill.

By the way, one mil point would cost a homeowner in a $200,000 house around $180 a year and it would completely save the school system from its current nightmare. However, a tax increase would probably cost our board members in an election next cycle. And whats most important is that they keep their jobs, not that they actually do them.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

April 29th, 2010
11:20 am

@lmno…I’m not saying that one mil point wouldn’t provide the funds that could potentially save a school system. But doesn’t that make the somewhat large assumption that the school district spends and manages the money responsibly, effectively, and in the best altruistic interests of the school system itself as opposed to the selfish wants of various internal competing interests? I think waste and greed is what has most people up in arms about more taxes. There is very little trust in any government or quasi governments ability to be a true ward and ambassador of other peoples money.

DB

April 29th, 2010
11:28 am

Most of the attorneys I know laugh at those “waivers”. If it hits the fan, that little piece of paper isn’t worth the ink they spent to print it.

1911A1

April 29th, 2010
11:28 am

One call, that’s all!

lmno

April 29th, 2010
11:32 am

Tiger, no they don’t spend wisely. But we have now reached a point where they can’t cut spending anymore. They have gutted it.

One thing that the public sector is bad at is effectively cutting spending. They will fire the teachers with the least experience. The young energetic teachers. Their logic is that the more experienced teachers have seniority. But the fact is the young teachers have the most recent training. They are also the least paid. If they have to fiire a teacher, fire the one who has taught for 30 years and makes twice the salary of a starting teacher as opposed to the third year teacher.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

April 29th, 2010
11:40 am

@lmno..and I think that’s the argument from the taxpayers….learn to spend my money wisely and I’ll give you more of my money. Just seems backwards for anyone asking for your money to say “hey, we’ll tell you up front we’re not going to manage it well now or in the future, but can we have it anyway?”

Would you give your money to a personal financial investor or a fund in your 401K that said right out, we’re really bad at investing?

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

April 29th, 2010
11:42 am

and is it really that “they can’t cut spending anymore” or they won’t change a system that has failed?

CPT

April 29th, 2010
11:42 am

While I don’t know the details about the issues in Dekalb County, I agree with the general idea of elimating waste before looking at tax increases. Merging underpopulated schools should absolutely be considered before increasing taxes in a recession. But this is getting off-topic.

I’ve always found the idea of suing a public instituiton for punitive damages a bit distasteful since it’s only the public that gets ‘punished’ through higher taxes.

lmno

April 29th, 2010
12:15 pm

“and is it really that “they can’t cut spending anymore” or they won’t change a system that has failed?”

We are down to the bare bones at this point

Who said anything about...

April 29th, 2010
12:18 pm

…punitive damages? You can only get those if you are “grossly negligent”, and then they are limited to a max of $250K for the injured party – the state gets the rest (if over $250K). Compensatory damages are what one would pursue, and, as others have pointed out, even though the Release / Permission language is quite “inclusive” it will not exxonerate the county or school IF negligence is involved…

Meme

April 29th, 2010
12:50 pm

What can go wrong on a field trip? How about 6th graders who decide to shoplift. Anyone else know of some doozies?

FCM

April 29th, 2010
12:52 pm

Merit based for teachers. Not the annual increase based on service.

Get rid of the Teacher’s Union.

Let teacher’s teach not do the administrative BS of tracking down these kind of forms. Let them have control of the classroom again.

IF a suit is brought and lost let the school sue the parent for the case costs. Heck if you sue for any reason and lose because the case is without merit (frivilous) then you should pay the court costs of BOTH sides.

Get vouchers for ALL schools–and make them work to get you to “spend” at their school.

These waivers will not prevent you from suing the school. It may make you think twice on making them pay.

Tiger your dead on that the government thinks it can spend $$$ and not be accountablity. Well the fiddler is the tax payer and you need to go to the polls this NOV and let your voice be heard.

Lori

April 29th, 2010
1:38 pm

Wow, I’ve never had to sign anything like that. The most I’ve ever seen is a form that I just have to give permission for my son to go and permission to charge my account (private school). I can certainly see why it would make you nervous though with that verbage. What exactly are they expecting you to pay damages for??? I can understand holding them harmless if your child needs medical attention or something, but as far as bad behavior (unless your child is a known issue), they are supposed to be supervising the kids, right. Shouldn’t the prevent bad behavior. Weird that the form kind of suggests that you as a parent could be sued.

Denise

April 29th, 2010
1:56 pm

I’ve never had to sign anything like that. Ours is just a basic permission slip. It does ask us if we could contribute a certain amount of money to help pay the bus driver. Apparently, that fee is optional in our county – not sure why, but we always pay the bus driver.

RJ

April 29th, 2010
2:20 pm

For the record, teacher unions do not exist in Georgia. There are no contracts between school systems and unions.

FCM

April 29th, 2010
3:36 pm

Teacher Unions are one of the largest Lobbiest in DC They need to be gone as their influence on “policy” gets into GA even when they don’t.

irisheyes

April 29th, 2010
10:20 pm

LOL, at the school I’m at, it would be great if we could get parents to even help contribute for a field trip. The kids rarely go on one because we can’t raise enough money for it. The language on the form is the least of our worries.

motherjanegoose

April 30th, 2010
8:38 am

Many schools are opting out of “leaving the school” field trips due to expense and legal issues.

I come to the schools and share an on site program, as do others.

I agree that it is wonderful for the children to go to a farm, watch pumpkins grow, see the fish in a pond and I hate that they are missing it. BUT ( to my knowledge) IT IS ABOUT $5 PER CHILD just to get on the bus and be driven to the venue…not to mention the cost of the place you visit

. My fee is about $1 -$2 per child and even some schools are having trouble getting parents to send in the money for this. I do not know the answer here. What can you really get for $1- $2?

Wayne

April 30th, 2010
8:42 am

Motherjane! Don’t sell yourself short! Reread your last paragraph…

FCM

April 30th, 2010
9:07 am

MJG I am not sure it is really just the $1-$2 (and surely your worth at least $3 –j/k your worth more). We parents see hat day $1, chew gum day $1, Field Trip $5, lunch money, year book….the list goes on. Perhaps the parent just feels nickled and dimed to death? I know that when I was in tough financial straits at one time I felt that way. The Principal pulled me aside and said don’t worry about it. Of course now that things are better for me financially I send in extra when I can incase some child’s parent couldn’t.

Wayne

April 30th, 2010
9:24 am

I just had to sign a permission slip for my son to go from one building to another. The buildings are like 40 feet apart. We didn’t sign it originally as we thought it was given to all students (other students are coming via bus from other schools) as a formality. Nope, we had to sign it too.

Jeff in Roswell

April 30th, 2010
10:21 am

I’ve not had to sign any form like that. We get a form that informs us of an impending field trip. I give, do not give, no money, yes money, yes money and extra for others. That’s about it.

Earl "I Don't Sue Unecessarily" Waters

April 30th, 2010
10:58 am

We wouldn’t have this problem if so many Americans weren’t pushing frivolous lawsuits or weren’t sue-happy, now would we?

Wake up, America, we’ve done this to ourselves. Everything is about liability.

Wayne

April 30th, 2010
11:02 am

Ain’t that the truth Earl? For my side (part-time) IT business, I have professional liability in the event that something happens. I pay $2500 a year, just in case.

FCM

April 30th, 2010
12:10 pm

Earl that goes back to my point, that if you sue and it is found the case is without merit (friviolous) you should be held responsible for your court costs and the defendants…that would make people think twice about suing.

Esq.

April 30th, 2010
3:34 pm

Sign the waiver. If damages occur as the result of negligence on the part of the school system or by anyone acting on the school system’s behalf then no piece of paper in the world will hold up in court. You are signing the waiver in “good faith” with an underlying understanding that your child or children will be supervised and cared for as any “reasonable person” would.

VCP

May 1st, 2010
12:28 am

As an attorney with school age children, I handle it this way: At the bottom of the form, before the signature, I hand-write the words “this release does not apply to intentional torts and/or negligence” and place my initials by the words. Then I sign it and give it to my child to turn in. I have never been questioned about it and my child has never missed an event.

Not Going To Use My Usual Name

May 1st, 2010
6:31 am

If it makes you feel better, write the note on the waiver, with bonus points for including the word “torts” to let the school know upfront that you’re a lawyer, LOL. (Intentional tort, by the way, is deliberate wrongdoing).

To those who suggest firing the teachers who have been loyal for many years rather than the ones most recently added to the system–yeah. That’ll make ME want to go into teaching. Teachers already have so many perks–12+ hour days, crazy amounts of stupid bureaucratic paperwork, summers “off” but without pay, extraordinarily low pay compared to others with similar education, and let’s not forget the amazing amount of respect they get from folks like us… let’s add to that list “and the longer you work, the more expendable the system considers you to be.”

Yeah. Well thought out, dude.

Felicity

May 1st, 2010
8:52 am

That Cobb Cobb release has always bothered me. So this is how we handle it, spouse signs and I reserve my right to sue. I mean we can’t absolve the school employee of unforseen improper/negligent/willful acts. What if transportation isn’t maintaining the buses properly? They absolutely should be responsible. When my son traveled to a math competition out of town, it was very concerning, as private vehicles were involved. What do we really know about these people…some one could easily be driving w/o license or insurance. Who checks?

FCM

May 1st, 2010
7:37 pm

Merit based pay doesn’t mean the experienced teachers get dismissed. In fact there are 2 teachers at our (one is almost old enough to be my Mom and the other isn’t even 30) that I would clone and put in every school in the state if I could. Then again there are a few that I think should not be allowed near a child.

Dump the CRCT

May 2nd, 2010
11:25 am

Many teachers dread field trips because many students don’t know how to behave in public. A teacher cannot control a child the way a parent could given a disruptive situation. And true, we have become a frivolous lawsuit society as well. I am relieved when we can’t come up with enough money for a field trip. And that’s another whole issue. Student wears $100 sneakers but parents can’t afford an $8 field trip fee. Huh?

vee

May 2nd, 2010
1:42 pm

In DeKalb County you sign a field trip permission form at the beginning of every year along with forms to take pictures, use the internet, acknowledge receipt of the disciplinary procedures booklet, etc. As for paying for the bus – the drivers are paid for the time they work. Field trips are EXTRA. Someone has to pay for them along with the gas nevermind the admission fee to where ever they are going. It always amazes me that we can’t get parents to buy paper and pencils but the concession stands at any event always sell out. Can’t afford to pay your cafeteria bill but you can buy icecream. Can’t afford $5 aq YEAR for PTA dues but can buy they whole extended family a Field Day t-shirt. (Also spend the whole day for Field Day but can’t come in 15 minutes for a conference.) Don’t get me started!!!

Tony

May 2nd, 2010
2:24 pm

FCM – Teachers’ unions do not even come close to being “top” lobbyists in Washington DC. There are many groups that are way ahead of teachers in their efforts to sway politicians. Included are real estate, financial, healthcare, banking, lawyers, agribusiness, and on and on ad nauseum. Believe it or not, teachers’ interest are not nearly as well represented as they need to be.

The field trip form basically gives the school permission to take your child with us on a school related trip. While we may use lots of fancy, legal-like language, if there is negligence involved then that piece of paper is pretty much worthless. Unfortunately, too many lawyers have tried to sue the schools for things that were not within the control of the school. It seems that just because a child was on a school trip and a car went out of control and rammed the bus, it is still somehow the school’s fault that the bus was in the way of the out of control car.

I think people need to understand that there will always be certain risks to just about anything we do. There are still people who want to sue the school because their child fell down while playing on the playground. Go figure!

ScienceTeacher671

May 2nd, 2010
4:15 pm

If mine don’t bring back a signed permission slip, they don’t go.

jim

May 2nd, 2010
4:43 pm

As a retired principal, I can assure you that the permission slip is not binding if something happens on a field trip. The system is still liable just as they are while the students are actually on campus. Negligence is negligence and that permission slip does not change that. Best advice: sign the paper and let your child enjoy the field trip – given the cuts in education, field trips may be a thing of the past anyway.

daisy32759

May 2nd, 2010
4:45 pm

Ooopps, looks like this ship got a little off course. First it was actually a discussion concerning permission slips, which the parents would sue anyway, and then went to school tax. I think the person asking the question REALLY wanted feedback on permission slips.

G.R.I.T.S.

May 3rd, 2010
7:06 am

the permission slips i had to sign was to give permission for my child to go to a particular place at a certain time…the means of transportation and how much it would cost…they also included which teachers and what grades would be going and what time they would be home…nothing about liability. i always assumed they were to have proof that the parent knew where there kids were. etc….

Magenta

May 3rd, 2010
9:44 am

Those waivers make zero sense to me — I see them as a possible intimidation tactic. Some lawyer saying “Well, you signed this…” It would probably eliminate a good 40% of parents who might otherwise be inclined to sue. Thank goodness for the other 60%.

motherjanegoose

May 3rd, 2010
2:03 pm

@ vee…I am with you! I read an article in the “letters to the editor” section of a paper from a man who was going on about the nutritional aspect of lunches. He ventured that parents could just send their own child’s healthy lunch, in a sack. I laughed…does he know how many children are on “free lunch”. Parents are driving a BMW and their kids are on free lunch. …no way are they going to fix lunch.