Q: Our high school band has been asked to perform at the Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball hosted by the Texas State Society in Washington D.C. on inauguration weekend. The trip will be chaperoned by parents and privately funded; however, it’s clearly a school sponsored activity. We have a trip meeting coming up and would like to have the necessary travel documentation ready to discuss with the parents. What should be included in our travel release?
A: At a minimum, any out-of-state travel documents should include a general release, medical authorizations and a choice of law provision. All of these elements can be included on one release form that the parent or guardian must sign before the trip departs. We suggest having your school district’s attorney review your travel releases before they are given to parents to ensure that all necessary issues have been covered.
Recommended Elements of Travel Release
· General Release – This section of the travel form will outline the scope of the trip (dates, destinations, etc.) and will explain the school’s involvement with the trip. The general release will grant permission for the child to attend the trip and authorize any school staff or parent chaperones to act as their child’s guardian while traveling. This section should also acknowledge that the parent accepts responsibility for any loss, damage or injury to the child or their property while traveling, and release the school district and its employees from any claims resulting from such loss.
· Medical Authorization – This portion of the release will authorize staff members and chaperones to seek emergency medical care for the child if necessary. The parent should acknowledge that he or she accepts financial responsibility for any medical costs associated with injury or illness while traveling.
· Authorization to Administer Medication – Included in the medical portion of your travel forms should be a section that permits staff or chaperones to administer medication to the child while on the trip. It is important to require that the parent list each and every medication that can be provided (including over the counter drugs such as ibuprofen), as well as the condition requiring the medication and the proper administration instructions. All medicines should be sent with the child in the original, labeled containers. It may also be prudent to offer a space where the parent can list any allergies, food restrictions or unusual medical problems of which the staff or chaperones should be aware.
· Choice of Law – Lastly, any travel release should include a “choice of law” provision. In Texas, school districts are largely immune from liability arising from cases of student injury or damage to property (except for motor vehicle accidents). However, this same immunity may not apply in other states. A choice of law provision simply confirms the parent’s understanding and agreement that any claims arising from student illness or injury or damage/loss of property will be governed by the laws of Texas. Your school district’s attorney can be helpful in crafting the language for this particular provision.
Other provisions you may consider including:
· Student Agreement – This document would outline the terms, conditions and rules of the trip that students must adhere to. It should explicitly incorporate application of your Student Code of Conduct, as well as lay out more specific expectations particular to the mode of travel, destinations, etc. Penalties for breaking the rules should be clearly stated, including the possibility that the student is sent home early for noncompliance. A list of chaperones, contact information, room/plane assignments, and packing list may also be included in a student agreement. Students should sign the agreement before departure.
· Chaperone Agreement – This document can be similar to the Student Agreement in that it lays out particular expectations of staff members and parent chaperones. You may consider addressing chaperone conduct, schedule, dress code and use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs while traveling.