Student foreign travel programs are becoming more popular at educational institutions. The invaluable lessons of other cultures, the excitement of a different country and the thrill of experiencing sights not seen in our country can be quite exhilarating to students and faculty alike. However, foreign travel carries risks as well as rewards. Typical claims resulting from foreign travel include: heavy drinking, not only by students, but faculty as well; sexual molestation; and program leaders failing to obtain proper medical care when needed.
Effective foreign travel risk management could mitigate future losses. Important Best Practices include:
- Clarity of Sponsorship – We encourage schools to make it clear to parents, teachers and other stakeholders whether a given event is school sponsored and endorsed or not. If not, then the participants and the organizer should acknowledge in writing that they are not acting under the auspices of the school.
- Parent Documentation – All parents should be required to sign an assumption of risk form that includes hold-harmless indemnification wording. A signed consent for medical treatment should also be required.
- Code of Conduct – A written code of conduct should be in place and signed off by students and parents. A briefing with students and parents should also take place prior to the trip.
- Crisis/Emergency Management – Every school should have emergency procedures in place when traveling overseas. The procedures should be communicated and documented to faculty, staff, students and parents. The procedures should also make clear who has the authority to decide what is considered a crisis and when to bring students and staff home.
- Insurance Coverage – Schools should arrange for adequate insurance coverage including general liability, workers’ compensation and foreign travel accident insurance.
- Review the US Department of State website at travel.state.gov for up-to-date travel advisories and warnings. Several schools have elected to cancel trips that were destined for troubled parts of the globe.