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School Risk Management: Protecting Students Abroad

Gibson
By Gibson - Jan 27, 2016 6:30:00 AM

Protecting_Students_Abroad.jpgWhat could be more educational than a trip to a foreign country? Students can put what they’ve learned in language class to the test. They can see historical sites they’ve only read about. Even trying new foods, riding a bus or subway, or buying something in a store can stretch them educationally in ways no classroom could.

But even the friendliest foreign countries are strange places. The unfamiliarity with the culture, the language, and the geography of a place may increase the potential for things to go wrong. Students, teachers, and chaperones on these trips could get hurt or sick or hurt someone else. So schools should take steps to prevent things from going wrong or to mitigate the harm when they do. This following list isn’t necessarily complete, but it can start a conversation if your school is considering a foreign trip.

Find a Guide. Seek out a reputable vendor to help plan and facilitate the trips. Research vendors online. Ask other schools for recommendations. Consider looking for a vendor that offers pre-tour training for students, teachers, and chaperones.

Engage the Guide. Seek board approval for the trip and the vendor. Get a written agreement with the vendor that:

  • Specifies the type and amount of insurance coverage the vendor must have, including general liability insurance, an excess policy, and automobile coverage (if the vendor will be driving) with coverage areas including any countries the students will travel to or be in during the trip;
  • Requires the vendor to name the school as an additional insured;
  • Requires the vendor to provide the school with certificates of insurance to evidence the required coverage and to update those certificates within 30 days of the trip; and
  • Specifies that no school employee or volunteer will be required to drive students anywhere during the trip.

Secure Parental Consent. Require parents to sign a waiver acknowledging the risks of the trip and waiving the school’s liability for any activity voluntarily undertaken by the student during the trip. Be sure to have this document reviewed by the school’s attorney before it is used.

Have a Plan. Develop policies and procedures for the trip that address things like who is responsible for emergencies, checklists to confirm all students are accounted for, “bed check” procedures, and appropriate chaperone-to-student ratios.

Prepare the Travelers. Set mandatory information sessions for the students and chaperones to cover the schedule, cultural expectations of the places being visited, rules and procedures, and emergency plans.

“Pack” Insurance. Review the school’s current policies to assure that the trip will be covered under the general liability and workers’ compensation policies. If necessary, seek board approval for the trip. Consider purchasing travel accident coverage to pay for medical expenses, repatriation expenses, and kidnap-and-ransom expenses.

Foreign trips can impart essential lessons and create lifelong memories for students. But those lessons and memories should spring from a safe and happy experience. Following some simple risk management guidelines long before the plane takes off will help protect students abroad and create that experience.

 

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