East Texas administrators explain school trip policies following - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

East Texas administrators explain school trip policies following Whitehouse ISD crash

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - A Whitehouse High School student who was badly injured in a car crash during a school trip in April is back in class for his first week of senior year.

Jacob Smith, fellow student Jennifer Aragon, and their teacher, Holly Mann, were all taken to a Houston area hospital to be treated after the crash. The students and teacher were part of a group traveling for an academic competition.

They were on their way home from Houston around 2 a.m. when a wrong-way driver hit one of the cars head on.

KLTV 7 received dozens of emails and phone calls from parents across East Texas following the crash wondering what school policies were in place regarding school trips and driving overnight. The station spoke with several East Texas administrators to find out what policies are in place when traveling on school trips.

Between academic conferences, sports games, and competitions, traveling for school trips is on the itinerary for most high school students.

“Elementary and middle schools we don't do overnight trips - except on very rare occasions will they do it," said Ken Vaughn, the chief student and support services officer for Tyler Independent School District.


"High schools, it is more appropriate for them to do an overnight trip because of the distance they may travel,” he said.

He explained that when the school does plan an overnight trip, the decision to stay the night is based on distance traveled and how long the activity will last. The same protocol is in place at Bullard ISD, where Interim Superintendent Joe Lee explained that the decision to stay the night is always made before the trip.

“That decision is normally made prior to the trip because you do want to require parental permission for a child to be on an overnight trip,” Lee said.

He said their goal is to always have students back by midnight.

Parents also told KLTV 7 about their concerns with students going back to school after getting home late from a sporting event.

“They will have some Thursday night games and we have discussed it," Vaughn said.


"We are concerned about it because they will lose instructional time and they will be tired. We know Thursday they'll leave early to go to the football game, for example. Friday, we know that they're going to get in early that morning and then go to school," Vaughn said.

Both administrators admit a perfect solution doesn't exist and staying overnight isn't always the safest option.

“We've transported them there and we want to bring them home. Other safety issues might also occur if we stay at a hotel,” Vaughn said.

A hotel stay may come out of the school's budget and adequate chaperones must be present. Vaughn said that's one chaperone per every 20 students at Tyler ISD, but there is no law. He said sometimes traveling late is the only option, especially with sports.

“It may be late before they arrive. So, that's just the way that it would work we would not spend the night on a situation like that. We'd know they'd have to come back and go back to school,” Vaughn said.

The administrators said drivers go through background checks and are required to be well rested before their trip to an event and back. There is no written policy for many school districts regarding the actual time that travel can happen. It's often left up to the sponsor's judgment.

“We're always concerned about it, and I'll be quite honest with you, every public school sponsor, coach, campus administrator, you know, lays awake at night until those children are home safely,” Lee said.

In the case of that Whitehouse crash car trouble had set the group back several hours leading their trip home into the middle of the night. Whitehouse ISD refused to speak with KLTV 7 about this story.

We also checked Whitehouse ISD's meeting agendas and they showed no changes in travel policy since that crash in April. Public schools are required to post their policy handbooks online. You are able to access those from any public school website.

Copyright 2014 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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