School field trip guidelines modified after Rutland incident

Bibb County school officials are now requiring one chaperone for every five students for all out-of-town and overnight field trips in light of a recent investigation of a Rutland High School field trip.

Seven Rutland students were expelled for drinking alcohol and sexual activity, and an eighth student was removed for supplying alcohol, during a DECA field trip to Orlando from Feb. 3-7.

About two weeks after students returned to Macon, a grandparent of a girl on the trip told a Rutland teacher that his granddaughter had been raped during the trip. It’s unclear if any police report was made to law enforcement officials in Florida, however.

Sylvia McGee, the Bibb County school system’s acting superintendent, said there were field trip guidelines in place before the Rutland group’s trip to Florida.

Those guidelines required one chaperone per 10 students and roster checks before students entered or left a destination. Two Rutland High School teacher/chaperones monitored 20 students on the Orlando trip. Details have not been released on whether students were left alone, or for how long.

“What we had in place was effective and specific,” McGee said. “But now we are taking a closer look.”

The Rutland chaperones are on administrative leave while the school system investigates whether they failed to properly supervise the students.

“We are probably being much more cautious,” she said. “We are saying, ‘Listen y’all, we have guidelines, and they are expected to be followed.’ ”

April 16, Cathy Magouyrk, the system’s deputy superintendent of teaching and learning, e-mailed to Bibb principals the field trip manual with the changes, with a note saying, “Chaperones should always be with the students, as they are our responsibility.”

The e-mail noted that effective April 19, there would be more chaperone training and tighter chaperone-to-student ratios.

The chaperones can be a teacher, parent or board employee. Those who serve as chaperones must first take an orientation before any trip.

McGee said field trips will continue in the school system because it would be unfair to punish students systemwide for the Rutland episode.

The administrative investigation of the two chaperones should be completed by June, she said.

Five Rutland High School seniors who were expelled appealed an administrative judge’s decision not to let them participate in graduation exercises. Those students will appear before the school board soon to find out if the decision will stand.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.