School Field Trips and Chaperones

Updated on November 06, 2017
T.D. asks from New York, NY
20 answers

this morning i chaperoned a field trip and it was fun. it was a tour of the college campus, a educational video in the science lab and lunch.
this is not my first field trip. so i know the way things go. and i observed another chaperone that would pat, place a hand on the shoulder of, tousle the hair of, hold hands or touch the kids nearest to them... first i thought it was only to their child so i payed better attention and nope, every child that was walking near them got physical contact by them.
this was a class of second graders. there were a total of 7 parents with the teacher.
so now the questions. what would you do? let it go? mention it to the teacher talk to the parent liason of the school ( the communication step before going to the principal)
would it make you uncomfortable to be around them or have your child near them?

(i have not said anything to anyone, i would like your lovely motherly opinions before i decide what to do. i don't want to be the dramma momma, but if this parents behavior is not acceptable i don't want to keep quiet ya know? i just don't know what to do!!!)

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So What Happened?

wild woman, the college has a planetarium, and does regular showings, that was the main purpose of the tour, we also toured the science hall where they have many animals, many stuffed real animals and a huge aquarium for the kids to see. (the class is the science magnet program so science is the focus of many things)
and i don't know what to count the mid and lower back, is that down on the inappropriate list or not? i could not see the kids faces to know what their reactions were but a couple did pull away

so i think i will talk with the teacher at school that i am good friends with and get her opinion, this mother is not well liked, many parents have requested that their child not be in her group, and after the kindergarten trip to an aquarium the kinder teacher did not allow her on another trip. (not only is she touchy feely, she a space cadet when shes out of her element. so when left to explore the aquarium with 3 kids ages 5 and 6 she was lost and couldn't keep track of her group and didn't know where she was. since kids in my group were buddies with kids in hers i took on the responsibility of all the children)
this class is now in second grade and we have had the same group of kids since kinder. she will not allow playdates at her house, (her neighbor says shes a horder and cannot open her front door all the way and thats why she refuses to have anyone over) i am good friends with several of the other mothers and there is a general dislike of her. even the 2 people that live down the street from her say they will never allow their children to be under her supervision. i don't want to be the tattle tale, but with kid a dodging her and kid b constantly moving away from her i feel like i should say something.. but then again i don't wanna open that can of worms. i will inquire with the friend teacher an get her opinion

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answers from Boston on

So when no one signs up to chaperone after you report this, you will be the reason why. The world is going way too PC!

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answers from Springfield on

The touching that you mentioned (pat, place a hand on the shoulder of, tousle the hair of, hold hands or touch the kids nearest to them - mid and lower back) would not be something I would consider inappropriate, especially if the chaperone were already on friendly terms with the child. But people have various levels of comfort.

My parents hug me and will kiss me (even as an adult), but my dad and my brother do not hug males. They shake hands. I've been married for 12 years, and the other day my husband said that my dad hugged him. First time ever! My husband was very touched. In contrast, the first time my husband's mother met me (when we were just dating), she tried to kiss me on the mouth. I was completely shocked and very, very uncomfortably. She still does it to me, and it still bothers me. Though I do realize it's just who she is, so I don't worry about it. (I just find it uncomfortable.)

Just saying, not everyone is going to find what you mentioned to be of concern.

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answers from San Francisco on

I don't see anything inappropriate in the behavior you're describing, UNLESS a child seemed uncomfortable. Otherwise it seems completely normal, and I'm a mom of three, former Girl and Boy Scout Leader (for several years) and elementary school classroom aide and substitute teacher (three+ years.)
I wouldn't read into it just because you and your clique of parents don't like her. And the teachers are ALWAYS in charge, so even if she is a "space cadet" on field trips the teachers are well aware of their students at all times.
Let it go, and stop looking to judge so quickly and easily :-(

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answers from Boston on

Second graders often don't listen and don't engage by looking an adult in the face. So touching shoulders and arms and even patting the head are fine. It might not be your choice, but maybe kids who respond to tactile cues do better this way. When I was teaching, I can't tell you the number of times per day that teachers and chaperones were touching kids. It's just not a big deal at this age. Holding hands to lead the line or keep kids focused is far better than them getting lost in a large museum or being distracted by the other visitors and wandering off from the line.

Nothing about a chaperone touching a child in the way you describe, in broad daylight or in public, would bother me. It might not be your style, or mine, but there's no reason to assume something insidious about it.

What bothers me more is your highlighting that you have a teacher you are "good friends with" and that you will use that route. You are a parent, and a volunteer. It's a nightmare for school staff to have parents playing the "friend" card and bypassing normal channels or getting involved in things that aren't in their area. For new parents wanting to volunteer for things, there's nothing worse than seeing a clique already established among other volunteers, or between parents and teachers. There's an inequity there, an inescapable feeling that some parents are part of the "in crowd" or, worse, able to get information on other children that is none of their business. Staff members (teachers, office staff, principals, etc.) have to be very careful to keep a strong line of professionalism and confidentiality between themselves and the parents. A teacher you are "friends with" should not be engaging in a conversation with you about another parent.

I'm also disturbed that you have judged her because she doesn't have play dates. So what? There could be a million reasons why she doesn't want to do that. But you're in conversation with neighbors who suspect she is a hoarder? How is that gossip a healthy thing? And so what if she is? Why is it anyone's business to judge that? I have a good friend who keeps a totally messy house. It's not my cup of tea but she's a great person and a vigilant mom. It makes me crazy that someone would judge her for that. And it's got to be so hard for the woman you don't like to know that all the neighbors are talking about her! If that were me, I wouldn't want any of those judgmental women and their kids near my home.

Now, the only thing about your post that makes any sense is that she's not great at keeping track of the kids in her charge. That's all. So, report that to the parent liaison or the principal. Be factual and non-judgmental - never mind her house or her touching, just that you felt that she couldn't keep track of the kids. (And please allow for the fact that you taking over her group might make her even more demonstrative the next time to show that she is focused on the individual children, knows their names, is friendly and so on.)

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answers from Santa Fe on


Reading some of your posts I just feel you are trying to be on everyone's toe. Maybe to distract yourself from your marriage issues or also to cover your lack of self-esteem, self confidence.

This particular person might be a horder or is maybe an odd person but does not deserve to be singled out from you. The way you form up with others and try to discuss what you think is "not right" can be very damaging to that person.

You just posted how you might be the odd one and thought people pull away from you. It was so disturbing to you to post and hide for a while.

How do you think this other woman must feel by trying to help on the field trip and all of a sudden people pull away. She has not even control over it because you are talking behind her back to others about something that bothered you.

I expect from you to talk to her or let it go. You are causing an unhealthy situation here.

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answers from Boston on

I would suggest that you set everything you know or have been told about this person aside. If you were uncomfortable with the touching, nothing can be done now. Sharing it with a teacher friend is similar to gossip, no matter how well intentioned you are.

In the future, if you were to see another adult touching children in a way that seemed inappropriate, you might choose to talk to the teacher during the day, so that she might helpfully inform the adult that initiating touching below the shoulder is not allowed. It's not that anyone here knows the volunteer's intent, but we can all use reminders from time to time. This protects the volunteers, as well as the children.

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answers from Dallas on

ETA: per your swh, you don't like this person and haven't since K. Hmmm. Sounds like a stirring the pot issue to me. I'm sorry .
Do you know this parent?

I've been in the classroom as a substitute and as a parent and on many field trips. MOST of the time, the groups of children are grouped in such a way they each parent chaperone has his/her own child plus the rest of the group are typically known to that parent by children's friendships, neighbors, sports teams, etc. My guess is that this parent knew each child more than just a simple acquaintance.

You cannot have a group of children in your care and never physically touch one or some of them... this is by guiding them to/from bus, getting their attention, helping with lunch/snack, etc.

As a teacher, I am extremely cautious about touching. Second graders are still very lovey and touchy with teachers and leaders. It is nothing for one to come give you or other parents and teachers a big hug, etc. What we teachers try to do is make sure that is a side hug.

I would think long and hard about this and determine if any touching was inappropriate. You do know, once you say something, this parent will be notified and the reputation of that parent will be forever tarnished if he/she did do something compromising or NOT. I would not want to be responsible for ruining someone's reputation over my interpretation of how they touched a child which could be innocent. Maybe you are completely hands off.. that's ok. I would NEVER say anything unless I specifically witnessed an act that was inappropriate.

It very well can be a very nurturing parent and absolutely nothing inappropriate happened. Maybe a hand was held if a child was nervous or scared of something, maybe hair was tousled because a bug or something was in the hair, maybe a pat on the shoulder was to quieten a student or students or redirect their attention.

I really don't think anything inappropriate occurred based on your description. Lots of kids that age want to hold hands, are touch feely.

I would tread with caution because this can also turn around on you.

I UNDERSTAND your caution and appreciate that you are watching for other children.

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answers from New York on

ETA: Brava to this woman who, apparently even though scorned by all the other moms and possibly suffering from a mental illness of sorts (hoarding), is STILL willing to chaperone kids, some of whose parents have never and will never chaperone a single field trip. You know, I was judged for years as the parent who never participated. The one who couldn't go on a field trip, or have play dates at her house, or sleep overs, or anything. We moved here when my last 4 kids were 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 5th grade and 6th grade - prime time ages for all of these things. No one ever asked why, but every mom had their "theories." I was purposefully excluded for years from the "mommy circle". All because no one asked why. Our youngest son required 24 hr awake care AND my husband and I both worked full time jobs (me from home) AND my husband commuted over 2 hours a day. We couldn't have sleep overs - it wasn't safe. We couldn't attend functions - many nights we both had to be on full alert because of behaviors of our child. I couldn't chaperone and neither could my husband as every vacation and sick day was dedicated to doctor's appointments, therapy appointments, and making up hours of work that couldn't be missed. Or even catching an hour of sleep when we were so exhausted we couldn't function one more minute. It wasn't until last school year that one mom finally asked why we never attended/did anything before (after our son was moved to a facility, I kind of went crazy trying to play catch up and volunteered for every school event available). She kind of spread the word and some of the moms ended up including me in a few things. That one mom who finally asked? Her and I are best friends now. Never, ever judge someone by the rumor mill. Not only does that make you the "drama momma" but also in the "mean mom club."

Some people are touchy feely folks. I know several moms who are like this with every kid they see - even ones they have never met before. I think it would be inappropriate if the child being "touched" was in a position where they were alone and being touched by an adult and you happened to walk in on it (not that there could be anything to it, but that might raise more red flags), but it sounds like a situation, where it was out in public, where anyone in the world who cared to look, could see this behavior. I think that pretty much tells you that it isn't likely to be considered "inappropriate touching." I'm not surprised that some kids shied away from it - probably mostly boys who think that their mom kissing or hugging them in public is gross. The fact that they pulled away means nothing.

From my own personal standpoint, I wish more folks weren't afraid to make healthy physical contact with children in their care. As a society, it is so often frowned upon - especially for folks who spend a tremendous amount of time caring for our children. Daycares have to give high fives and not hugs. Kindergarten teachers are watched if they have too much contact with students. Paras working with special needs kids are given strict guidelines to follow, even though their charges simply do not understand why it isn't ok to hug someone who takes care of you 8 hrs a day.

I miss the old days where we didn't worry so much about this kind of stuff (but totally understand why we do).

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answers from Washington DC on

ETA: inappropriate to me is buttocks and groin and for girls, chest area. basically anything that a bathing suit covers up.

I think that you need to stop and breathe. You can tell the teacher you saw something that didn't make YOU feel comfortable. Then tell what you saw and the child's reaction.

Did the children look uncomfortable?

If the answers to those questions are NO - you sit down and shut up. I don't have a problem with another adult holding my young child's hand on a field trip.

I would have a problem if that adult was "tickling" them or touching them in below the shoulders (other than the hands).

Not sure why 2nd graders would be touring a college campus - but okay. Any way - if the answers are NO - then you say NOTHING and let YOUR issues get in the way.

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answers from Atlanta on

If you know the parent well? I would discuss with him or her your feelings.

With 4 boys, I have done so many field trips, I think I've lost count. Each and every field trip over the last 13 years has been with kids I already know and know me.

When you were observing this interaction, was the child pushing the person away? For me, it would be whether or not the child said "don't" and the parent didn't listen, or if the child was visibly upset and walked away. Otherwise? I would tend to believe that I am letting my own prejudices and personal experience get in the way.

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answers from Miami on

They're second graders. So what? It's her personality. If these were older students, then it would be an issue.

I recommend that you mind your business and ignore it.

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answers from Boston on

Well since you did notice this I'd probably say something to the teacher just so you can get it off your plate and go onto other things.

Full disclosure: I've chaperoned a number of field trips and may times I would place my hand on a shoulder to guide along a straggler or two. The worst was the 7th grade trip where I held onto one kid's hood to keep him in the same room as we were all in (he was a jerk who would wonder away constantly and after the 3rd 'gee I thought I could move on when I was finished looking at everything' I'd had enough. Same trip I help my daughter's friend's hand and announced 'since you don't seem to be able to follow my simple directions I guess I'll have to hold your hand like you are 3 instead of 13' and I did. Really what part of stay with the group and wait here on the sidewalk was hard to understand? His mom laughed about it when she found out.

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answers from Santa Fe on

Added - Reading your SWH, she sounds like quite the odd person. If a parent is disliked by all other parents, that is telling me something is off about her. (it's sad too) I am guessing she has aspergers or something. It is not good that she would space out when in charge of young kids and get lost on a field trip. Huh. I don't know what to say except this person is just different and makes people uncomfortable. She probably has good intentions though. If you see kids dodging away from her touch and acting uncomfortable you should 1. kindly say something to her (out of the hearing of others) like "Hey Judy, not all kids like to be touched by adults they don't know and I just saw Timmy and Sally both act uncomfortable just now. Maybe you should be less touchy with kids that aren't yours" and/or 2. mention it to the teacher and let the teacher talk to her. Original - A pat on the head...a tousle of hair...a hand on a shoulder. It seems appropriate and perfectly fine to me. In my opinion it means that person loves kids and is just a more touchy person. I help in the classroom often and I have had kids take my hand, run up and hug me, hang on me. I see my daughter do this with teachers she loves (she is 8). I might pat kid's shoulders or give high fives when I help. If a kid grabs my hand or hugs me it just makes me smile...they all know me by now. I guess if you are really concerned you could privately talk to the teacher but nothing you say raises a red flag for me.

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answers from Portland on

Added: Gidget - I had to laugh with your MIL trying to kiss you on the lips. I thought my MIL giving full on body contact hugs (think I feel smothered) was bad enough ... that gave me a good chuckle.

Now I've seen the SWH, I would stop and think, is this me reading more into it because I don't care for this person (sometimes we just do that, without intending to) ... or really, was there cause for alarm. It's the kind of thing, if someone else raised an eyebrow at the time - then yes, maybe ... but if you go and ask your teacher friend, you are relaying your point of view. So it will be a bit skewed perhaps. That's how unfortunately, gossip starts. You have to watch that. This is school right? So just decide is it worth it? Because - she might just look bad, but so could you. Unless kids were at risk ... I personally would not bother.



Here's my take on stuff like this.

In general - would you say based on your experiences, your reactions to things are bang on the money? Or would you say you overreact, or take things out of context a bit? Earlier there was a question where you took things a bit personally - and we reminded you that you probably were a bit skewed in how you perceived a few situations.

I'm not saying this isn't odd. Generally, these days, parents don't touch kids they don't know - or are more aware of it than in previous years. I think that whole hands off thing is pretty much known nowadays - we teach our kids that, and we parents are well aware. That's not to say there aren't touchy feely people out there.

Here's what I'm guessing - usually they group kids together that are buds are that are known to the parent (or at least they do here). So perhaps this mom knows this group of kids. Perhaps she's had them to her house, or has watched them before. If so, then perhaps the holding hands or touching them isn't that unusual. It might appear to be in a school-like setting (field trip). I get it.

My personal feeling is - if I notice something (as in I take notice of it) generally then to me, it's a bit off. I don't notice things that are average or typical. I'm too busy watching my own kids. In your case, you were busy watching a group of kiddos. So if you noticed this touching while already watching your group of little ones, then I'd say it was a bit much. Perhaps the mom was a bit nervous ... and she reached out to touch the kids, who knows. I guess for me - unless it was inappropriate (as in, made the kids uncomfortable, or was .. I don't know, just crossing boundaries... in some way so as to be out of line) I don't think I'd mention anything. If it were that bad, I think the teacher (who has ultimate responsibility for the class) would have pulled the parent aside and mentioned something.

That's the kind of thing where if one of the kids mentions something to a parent, it gets back to the teacher too. But honestly - I'd let this go if it were me. I'm assuming this was a mom because you didn't mention it was a man.

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answers from Norfolk on

Some people are more touchy feel-ly than others.
If no one was bothered by it then I wouldn't worry about it.
At that age - my son would have kept himself at a distance from her - he liked holding my hand but no one elses.
If the teacher noticed and was bothered by it (might be a school policy) - then she'll either talk to the mom about it or make sure she never gets selected as a chaperone again.
I don't think you need to do anything except maybe talk to your kids about how they feel about relative strangers touching them.
While I don't think it's particularly unusual, if she had a cold she'd be passing it around fairly easily with all that contact.

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answers from Anchorage on

I have been on every field trip my kids have had since K and volunteer weekly at the school. Sometimes touching the kids is necessary, for example touching a shoulder to get the child's attention and keep them in line as we are entering/exiting the bus or buildings etc. I have also, on several occasions, had children run up and hug me, even kids I don't know. I assume it is because they recognize me as a regular at the school and on these trips. So my question to you would be did the touching appear inappropriate? Did the kids seem uncomfortable? You don't mention gender but if the adult was the opposite gender would the contact have still seemed off? Did the adult seem to know most of these kids and was maybe a regular volunteer they all recognized? Of course we always want to be on the look out to protect our kids, but it does seem these days any interaction at all can be taken wrong, so I would just be sure they were really doing something that crossed a line before you make such a huge claim against them as inappropriate touching.

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answers from Dallas on

It's strange to me that you've been very deliberate to avoid mentioning the gender of the parent....

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answers from Los Angeles on

It sounds to me like you witnessed a parent chaperone treating 7 year olds the way parents, caregivers, teachers, teaching assistants, lunch supervisors, neighbours, friends, grandparents and chaperones treat 7 year olds. I work in a grade 2 classroom and I pat many head and backs, hold lots of hands etc. Working with young children usually requires a fair amount of physical contact, whether to calm children, comfort children or just make them pay attention or stay close.

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answers from Fort Myers on

2nd graders are still young. If the kids were teenagers, I think there would be an issue.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Why do you think this is not normal?

I often touch other people. I'm a touchy sort of person. I wouldn't think this was anything weird.

If these were teens or even older tweens I'd think it was a little odd but when you said their age I thought this sort of thing is normal with 2nd graders, even 3rd graders. Maybe 4th but they're starting to be tweens at that age and want adults to go away.

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