travel advisory

A year after fatal field trip, Walcott ramps up trip regulations

With end-of–year excursions planned at many schools, the city has adopted new rules for field trips, particularly those that involve water.

The new regulations come nearly a year after Nicole Suriel, a sixth-grader at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, and Engineering, drowned during a field trip to a Long Island beach. An investigation found that the school had not collected permission slips for the trip and took the students to a beach that was not patrolled by lifeguards.

Now, schools will have to collect Department of Education permission slips for each trip, ensure that lifeguards are present when students swim and that lifejackets are worn during other water activities, and send extra chaperones on trips with more than 30 students.

The new rules were developed during a review process that began after Suriel’s death, department officials said. Typically, the Panel for Educational Policy must approve new regulations before they can go into effect, but Chancellor Dennis Walcott decided that the field trip rules should be adopted immediately on an emergency basis.

“Tragically, last year we lost one of our students in an accident on a school field trip to the beach. While we can never change history, we can take action to prevent future tragedies and better protect our students on field trips,” Walcott said in a statement. “That is why today I signed an emergency order expanding supervision requirements for field trips and strengthening guidelines around swimming.”

The new regulations also clarify rules for international travel, the subject of a different investigation that concluded last summer. A lengthy investigation into a 2007 trip by Beacon High School students to Cuba, where travel is prohibited for U.S. citizens, found that only a single Beacon teacher accompanied the students and the group traveled without approval of Beacon’s principal or other city officials. The new rules require a minimum of two school staff members on international trips and also mandate that a school’s superintendent sign off on the destinations. The superintendent must review travel warnings for the country students will visit.

The rules have a budget angle, too: They require schools to fundraise for trips meant to celebrate, not educate.

The new rules could create some additional hurdles for schools planning field trips, but Walcott said they are not meant to cut down on the number of trips that students take. “I strongly believe field trips are a valuable part of our children’s education, exposing them to different experiences and environments than the classroom,” he said. “We want our students to get the most out of these experiences with safety in mind.”

The full set of new rules:


Number: A-670


I. Description of the subject and purpose of the proposed item under consideration.

Chancellor’s Regulation A-670 amends the prior version of the regulation, dated November 26, 2008. It has been adopted pursuant to an emergency declaration of the Chancellor pending vote by the Panel for Educational Policy. The amendments to the regulation are summarized as follows:

  • The Regulation clarifies who may serve as an adult supervisor for out of the city, overnight, and international trips and trips when students will be engaging in swimming and water based activities. (pp. 3-4, section II(D)(6))
  • The Regulation imposes new adult to student ratios for trips which involve swimming and/or water based activities. (p. 4, section II(D)(7))
  • The Regulation requires that prior to approving a trip, the principal/designee must ensure that a lifeguard will be on duty at all times when students are swimming. (p. 2, section II(A)(9))
  • The Regulation requires that schools use the appropriate consent forms attached to the Regulation for all school trips and that any modifications to the forms be approved by the Office of Legal Services. (p. 2, section II(C)(1))
  • The Regulation clarifies insurance and indemnification requirements. (p.6, section IV)
  • The Regulation clarifies requirements with respect to international trips and requires the following: (1) prior to approving a trip, the superintendent must determine whether there are any travel warnings or advisories for the country/countries the students will be visiting and, if there are such warnings or advisories, the superintendent must consult with the Deputy Senior Supervising Superintendent prior to approving the trip (p. 1, section II(A)(2)); (2) the Superintendent must ensure that every student and staff member has the appropriate documentation for travel to the country/countries being visited and for return to the United States (p. 1, section II(A)(4)); (3) the principal must ensure that at least one of the staff members accompanying the students on an international trip carries a phone with international service (p. 1, section II(A)(5)); and (4) that in addition to the two staff members required to accompany up to fifteen students, one other adult also must be included on the trip. (p. 4, section II(D)(6)(c))
  • The Regulation provides that for trips of a celebratory nature, schools must fundraise to meet the costs of the trip. (p.2, section II(A)(10))
  • The Regulation clarifies the fact that the Regulation does not apply to student exchange and homestay programs. (p.1, section II(A)(1))
  • The Regulation clarifies the fact that the Chancellor or his designee may waive the Regulation, or any portion thereof, if it is determined to be in the best interest of the school system. (p.6, section VI)
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    Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

    PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
    Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

    Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

    For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

    First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

    Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

    Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

    But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

    My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

    “A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

    Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

    “In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

    I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

    “Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

    I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

    “When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

    I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

    “It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

    I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

    “In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

    Weekend Reads

    Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

    This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

    We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

    Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

    Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
    “Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

    Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
    “My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


    Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
    “My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

    Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
    “I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


    Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
    “I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


    Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
    “As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

    D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
    “Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


    Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
    “I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


    Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
    “Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”