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Determine Chaperone-to-Student Ratios for School Trips

Heather Salko, Esq.
October 2020
Best practices for involving chaperones on K-12 school trips

Chaperones on your school’s trips can prevent students from wandering off, control student behavior, and provide backup during emergencies. Some state or local laws or 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 Best 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.
  • Enlist a chaperone of each gender if a trip is coed.
  • Ensure at least one chaperone is a school employee, such as a teacher, coach, or administrator. This person is responsible for 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.

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. The ratio may be affected by students’ Individualized Education Programs.

 

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Additional Resources

American Camp Association: Standards that Relate to Staff Screening, Supervision, and Training

Chicago Public Schools: Student Travel

Emery County School District: Field Trips and Excursions

Georgia Department of Education: Policy and Procedure — Supervision of Students