Field trips are supposed to be one of the more entertaining aspects of school, but in recent years they have become controversial. A quick Google search will reveal tons of stories about kids excluded from field trips. Look through any parenting forum and you will see a few posts questioning the legality of field trip exclusion. So, can schools do it?
The short answer is yes. Schools are allowed to exclude from children field trips.
Schools cannot exclude children from field trips simply on the basis of an IEP or disability. A school can’t leave a student back from a trip to the zoo just because that student is wheelchair bound. A school and a parent may work together and decide that a particular field trip is not the best activity for a certain student to attend, but under Section 504 a school is supposed to operate under the assumption that said student will attend and plan to meet their needs.
What are the reasons that a school can exclude a student from a field trip?
1. Poor behavior
Schools can exclude misbehaving students. This is particularly the case if the behavior the student has demonstrated poses a danger to themselves or others. Additionally, some venues reserve the right to ban schools from coming back if their students behaved poorly which necessitates making careful choices about who they bring.
Note: Parents can still raise issue with what a school defines as poor behavior and whether a school is applying that standard consistently across the board to all students.
Students with chronic attendance issues may be excluded from field trips. Many schools outline such a policy in the student handbook or course syllabus. A policy like this is often two-fold. Habitually absent students often have work to make-up, and they are also a threat to be absent on the day of the field trip, which ends up being money wasted on a child who didn't show up.
The primary reason students attend school is to learn. Many schools have a policy that doesn’t allow students who neglect their studies to attend field trips.
Some schools have additional criteria built around systems in their school or a combination of other factors. Parents should demand that the criteria be communicated ahead of time.
Ultimately schools do have a say about who attends a field trip. If a student presents significant problems inside of the school building, it is reasonable for schools to assume they would present the same problems outside of the building and take action to prevent it. As long as schools are complying with IEPs, 504’s and not being discriminatory, barring a student from a field trip is generally seen as fair game.