Even as schools across the city prepare to take students on excursions and educational trips, parents have objected to the disclaimer forms they are made to sign. A group of parents has written to the education department to direct schools to scrap these disclaimer forms, which they claim absolve schools of any damage, injury, accident and loss of property or life during the excursion.
Arundhati Chavan, president, Parents Teachers’ Association United Forum, said, “School managements cannot get such forms signed by parents and shirk responsibility. Many a time, students are so eager to go on school excursions that parents are forced to sign the forms. We have taken up the issue with schools several times. However, they continue to issue disclaimer forms. We will take up the issue with the school education minister, if necessary.”
Avinash Rajgir, a parent, said, “I had written to the deputy director of school education, Mumbai, last year, seeking intervention. I received a reply from them this year, saying they will take action against such schools. However, schools are getting disclaimers signed even now. I am consulting a lawyer and planning to move court.”
Following Rajgir’s complaint, the deputy director of school education’s office informed him that an inquiry had been initiated in the matter. Rajgir received another letter from the deputy director’s office in June, which was addressed to the education inspectors of south, north and west regions, instructing them to take necessary action in case schools are at fault. However, no action has been taken since.
Parents say school authorities must ensure the safety of their students. Namitabh Kothari, parent of a student of Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan Vidyalaya in Malad said, “They cannot shirk responsibility. It is their duty to ensure safety of every student. Schools must mention in their disclaimer that they take responsibility of every child during the excursion and will ensure their safety.”
Parents claimed this was not the first time they have objected to picnic disclaimer forms at schools. After tragedies during picnics in 2010 and 2009, they have demanded to get the forms scrapped.
However, schools said they need security as much as parents do. “Why are parents thinking negatively? They send their wards to our school, that means the school and its staff will ensure their safety. If the schools are making it compulsory for parents to sign these forms, they are free to raise objections. Schools are not wrong in issuing such disclaimers,” said principal of a well-known south Mumbai school.
Hanif Kanjer, director of Rustomjee Cambridge International school, said, “The school’s responsibility lies in taking necessary precautions, checking the credentials of tour organisers, etc. No school or teacher will deliberately want students to suffer an injury. A disclaimer form is required to be signed for trips, whether the student goes with parents or through the school. Further, tours are not compulsory. Schools should provide parents an opportunity to interact with the tour manager.”
Deputy director of education N B Chavan said, “Excursions and educational trips are an important part of the curriculum. When schools ask us for permission to organise a trip, we issue them safety guidelines every year. No school would ignore the safety of its students, parents must understand that.”
Tragedies during excursions
December 3, 2010 A Class X student of St Francis D’Assisi High School in Borivali died after falling from a mini train during a school picnic at Gyaneshwari Udyan in Aurangabad
August 27, 2010 A Class VIII student of a Nallasopara school, Aishwarya Pawar, drowned in the Tungareshwar Bird Sanctuary waterfall during a school picnic
December 23, 2009 A student of Jijamata Convent School in Koparkhairane, Chirag Patel (11), drowned in the filtration tank of a swimming pool at Sentosa Resort
April 27, 2008 Snehal Pawar, a Pune student, drowned in the swimming pool at Sentosa Resort, Lonavla
January 11, 2008 19 children were injured in a toy train mishap when they were on a school picnic in Thakur village, Kandivali