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Determine Chaperone-to-Student Ratios for School Trips

Heather Salko, Esq.
May 2024
Student Chaperone Masthead
Considerations when involving chaperones on K-12 school trips

Chaperones on your school’s trips can prevent students from wandering off, help control student behavior, and provide backup during emergencies. Some state or local laws or trip venues set minimum chaperone-to-student ratios and these should be reviewed during trip planning. When ratios aren’t mandated, determine the appropriate number of chaperones by factoring in the trip’s risk and duration, distance traveled, and participants’ ages.

Follow Promising Practices for Utilizing Chaperones

Each trip should have at least two chaperones; larger groups may require more.

  • Have a backup chaperone available if someone gets sick or isn’t available during an emergency.
  • If the larger group breaks into smaller groups during the trip, ensure a chaperone for each small group. Don’t leave small groups of students without a chaperone.
  • Enlist at least one chaperone of each gender represented in the student group.
  • Ensure at least one chaperone is a school employee, such as a teacher, coach, or administrator. This person is responsible for knowing and following your policies and procedures and notifying school contacts in an emergency.
  • Consider setting a minimum age for volunteer chaperones, such as 21, to ensure responsible behavior.
  • Limit volunteer chaperones’ ability to bring children not involved in the trip. This will reduce distractions.
  • Require volunteer chaperones to adhere to all school policies.

Exceed Ratios in These Situations

As a general rule, logistically complex trips require higher chaperone-to-student ratios; you may want to exceed standard practices or legal minimums. For example:

  • Overnight trips may have increased risks and require increased supervision to handle sleeping arrangements, coordinate meals, disperse medicine, and oversee behavior.
  • International travel requires more adults to organize trip logistics, manage student health problems, and respond to emergencies. 
  • Physically challenging trips and inherently risky activities can increase potential for injuries.
  • Use of public transportation or facilities increases the chances that students will become separated from the group or encounter undesirable strangers.
  • Students with disabilities may require additional chaperones for assistance with mobility. Those with cognitive disabilities may require closer supervision. Students’ Individualized Education Programs may affect the student-to-chaperone ratio.


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Additional Resources

Chicago Public Schools: Student Travel

Emery County School District: Field Trips and Excursions

Broward County Schools Field Trip Policy

Liberty County School System: Academic and Club Field Trip Handbook



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