New rules to govern Falmouth school field trips

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FALMOUTH — The School Board’s policy committee Monday took a step toward clarifying rules for school-endorsed field trips.

Under the previous policy language, field trips and excursions were either “sanctioned” or “non-sanctioned.” The board had previously expressed interest in changing that language to be “school-sponsored” or “non-school sponsored.”

“Sanction didn’t seem like a neutral word,” said Superintendent of Schools Geoff Bruno during the policy committee meeting.

The board’s and committee’s concerns with the current language were that it might create the notion that a non-sanctioned trip had “something inherently wrong with it,” Bruno said.

“We don’t want to send the message it’s not something of value,” he added.

The current difference between the two types of trips is that sanctioned trips typically have something to do with curriculum and supported student engagement, and are approved by Bruno two months in advance. A non-sanctioned trip is run independently from the school.

The example the board frequently used is if a school sports team organizes its own trip to another state, which may have the appearance of a trip run by the school.

Under the proposed new language, school employees or anyone else organizing non-school-sponsored trips must state the trip is not sponsored or endorsed by the School Board or School Department.

School Board member Caryn Bickerstaff said there is a liability issue that was not addressed in the current language for non-sanctioned trips.

Under the new language, it is made clear that non-school-sponsored trips are not covered by the district’s liability insurance. The new language says “the Falmouth School Department assumes no liability for such trips and will neither approve nor disapprove the trip.”

“There was a gray area last year with the non-sanctioned policy,” Bickerstaff said.

School Board member Dee Conroy-Vella said she wanted to be sure the board is legally clear to change the language, which Bickerstaff said she would look into.

Bickerstaff said the Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth school departments have the same policy language the board wants to adopt, so she doubts there is any legal issue.

The new policies will have a first reading at the May 18 School Board meeting.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or