Field Trip Tragedy Highlights Need for Disclosure to Parents

Parents are blaming educators in charge of a school trip that left two children dead for not warning families about the dangers of Lilydale Regional Park, the San Francisco Gate reports.

Employees of the park, which is located near St. Paul, Minnesota, regularly warn prospective visitors about safety issues associated with the park, but those were not passed on to families of Peter Hobart Elementary School students prior to their departure for the fossil hunting expedition.

A fossil pit landslide, likely caused by recent rain, claimed the lives of two children and seriously injured two more on the field trip.

Danielle Meldahl, whose son was injured, said that school officials didn’t give the parents an option to make an informed decision by pointing out such hazards as park caves and cliff faces. Meldahl said that had she been made aware of those risks, she would not have allowed her son to go.

Lilydale Regional Park runs along the Mississippi River. It’s a popular destination for fossil hunting, which requires a permit from the city.

The application form makes park users acknowledge that “some of the conditions and locations within the Lilydale Regional Park area are hazardous to persons or property.” It also requires the applicant to assume liability for any injuries that happen due to the park’s “unsafe conditions.”

A Peter Hobart teacher applied for the permits online and checked off the box that absolved the city of liability, according to the documents released by the city government. The permit application also passes on the responsibility of educating others about the park’s dangers to the person filling it out.

However, none of this was mentioned on the trip information sheet that was sent to the Peter Hobart parents. The families were only told that the trip involved hiking, climbing and getting dirty.

Although no members of the St. Louis Park Public Schools staff were available to talk to the reporters, the district did release a statement.

“Despite our sadness over this incident, the School District is attempting to move forward as best as it can,” the statement read in part. “We currently are preparing for the 2013-14 school year. While our plans are directed toward the future, the School District will continue to provide additional support for the students, families and staff impacted by this tragedy, as they have not been forgotten.”

The Meldahls are exploring their legal options, as are the parents of Mohammed Fofanaand and Haysem Sani, the two students who died.