KB Reference Desk: Non-School Sponsored Out of State Trip

Q:      A local youth jazz band is taking a trip to Louisiana this summer for a jazz performance. The organizer of the trip is a campus principal, whose son is a member of the jazz band. Her participation is in no way associated with her position as principal, and the only school involvement was to allow distribution of flyers to the jazz band members with trip information. Some parents are confused and have signed their student up to attend thinking the trip is school sponsored and chaperoned. What can we do to limit confusion and liability?

A:      If sued, immunity would exist under Texas law for most personal injury and accident claims, unless resulting from a district employee’s negligent use or operation of a motor vehicle. As such, you should be safe. Nonetheless, because of the confusion regarding school association, and to avoid even the possibility of suit, it would be prudent for your district to send a notice to parents clearly stating that the trip is not school sponsored and any participation is at the student's own cost and risk.

The notice should identify the trip in question by location and date. It should also clearly state that the trip is not a school-sponsored activity and that the school district has no responsibility or liability for any injury or other loss that may occur in connection with the trip.  In addition, parents should be informed that the students will be under the sole authority and supervision of the volunteer individuals who are organizing the trip, and that the organizers, while they may be school employees, are acting in their own personal capacity. Finally, we would advise obtaining acknowledgement of receipt by requiring the form be signed by parents of students participating and returned to the school district.