In April 2022, the Ohio School Boards Association (“OSBA”) published guidance about including students with disabilities in school field trips. The guidance explains that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits schools from discriminating against students with disabilities and requires schools to give students with disabilities access to the school’s educational programming, including field trips.
The guidance encourages schools to plan ahead and consider important steps they can take, including what supports or accommodations the child will need in order to participate (ex. specialized transportation, personal aide, access to nurse, plans for access to medication, meeting with student prior to field trip to discuss behavioral expectations, etc.) and how those accommodations will be provided. Making such plans to include students with disabilities in the field trip will avoid costly complaints or litigation. The OSBA also recommended meeting as a team to discuss participation and supports if the child has an IEP or 504 (with stronger recommendations that the team should meet in the case of the student with an IEP vs. can meet in the case of a student with a 504 plan).
The OSBA also advised that:
- The district should not require a parent to attend the trip in order for the child to participate. Instead, the district needs to ensure appropriate personnel and planning is in place to enable the child to attend with or without the parent.
- Cost should never be a reason for a district to exclude a child with a disability.
- Districts should avoid having individual administrators make unilateral decisions or generalizations about students with a specific type of disability and their fitness for a trip. Rather, decisions should be individualized to the specific child.
- If a student’s participation poses a significant health and safety risk to the child themselves or others and there is no way to reduce this significant risk, it may be appropriate to exclude the child from the field trip. However, the OSBA recommends staff start with an assumption that the child will attend the trip with supports in place, consider possibilities for accommodations, and then make the decision to exclude. Discrimination determinations on these types of issues have depended on the specific facts of the situation, so consulting with counsel regarding specific concerns is recommended.
To read the OSBA’s guidance, click here.
Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.
Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.