Keeping Students Safe
During Community Trip

Community Walk


Inclusive education is about providing equal opportunities for all students, regardless of disability. 

Special education students MUST explore the community beyond the four corners of their classroom. Not only is it inclusion, but it is necessary for gaining the skills to transition into adulthood.

But when you’re teaching a community-based lesson and you have the opportunity to take your students off-campus for field trips, how do you keep them safe?

We’re going to talk all about how to ensure the safety of our special education students while on a community trip, as well as a list of resources that can help you as you get started.

Why Do Special Ed Students
Need to Explore the Community?

Community-based instruction (CBI) offers many benefits that contribute to the overall development and well-being of our students.

It plays an important role in developing essential skills, fostering independence, and promoting social interaction. This is particularly true for transition students, who are on their way to being adults.

  • Practical Life Skills

The real-world setting provides an opportunity for students to practice daily living skills such as using public transportation, grocery shopping, ordering in a restaurant, or crossing roads safely.

  • Social Interaction

Engaging with community members and peers outside the classroom develops social and communication skills. It also helps build meaningful relationships.

  • Generalization of Learning

Think of a community trip as an application of your classroom lessons. The students will apply what they learn in real-life scenarios and enhance their understanding of the information they’ve just received from you.

  • Self-Advocacy

Encountering new situations may help your students learn self-advocacy because this encourages them to express their needs, preferences, and concerns.

  • Confidence Building

Successfully navigating the community leaves the students with a sense of accomplishment and boosts their self-confidence.

7 Safety Tips When Going Off-Campus

We’ve now established the importance of visiting the community with your special education class. That’s why it’s a frequent activity in most special education programs, especially in high school and transition classrooms.

But the biggest concern when going off-campus with special education students? SAFETY. It’s essential to have a system in place so that your students stay safe.

Take it from a Transition teacher who taught at a public school in a big city (Boston). 

Here are some safety tips for a successful community field trip.

#1: Create and review safety rules

Before heading out your classroom door, make sure you have created and reviewed safety rules with your students and staff. I like to print these out and make a little “Community Safety” area right by the door. We review the procedures at the start of the year and as needed.

Include rules for walking in the community, such as:

  • Pay attention.
  • Stay together.
  • Follow directions.
  • Stop at crosswalks.
  • No texting or music.
  • Wait for the walk signal.

If you’re in a city, teach & review rules for public transit travel:

  • Pay attention.
  • Stay with travel partners.
  • Don’t cross the road until vehicles stop.
  • Wait your turn to board and exit vehicles.
  • Have your wallet and pass ready when boarding.
  • Ask for a seat when boarding the bus or subway, if you need to.

Leave these rules visible (you can place them by the door) with a sign-out sheet to confirm that the students agree to follow the rules.

You can create a checklist of everything your students and staff need outside. Put it by the door as a reminder. Download this FREE visual checklist so your students don’t forget their belongings!

#2: Create an individualized safety plan

Aside from the rules, it’s also helpful to have safety plans ready before you go off-campus. Take note that some students may need specific safety plans made.

For example, if a student has a medical condition like epilepsy or severe allergies, ensure that all necessary medications and information about the condition are readily available.

Or if your students have unsafe tendencies, like darting into the street, panicking when seeing dogs, or having low vision, you’d also need guidelines for keeping them safe while outside the school building.

If you want a template to use for your safety plans, click here.

And be sure to review these guidelines each time you leave campus!

#3: Have an emergency plan

Safety plans are different from emergency plans. Safety plans are made so you wouldn’t have to use your emergency plans.

But just in case something unplanned happens, it helps to be prepared.

So before you leave your classroom, clearly communicate the emergency procedures, including where to meet up in case of separation.

To do this, check out your location beforehand so you have an idea of of a central location you could meet.

If you have students who carry cell phones, make sure that they have the cell phone number of an adult traveling with them, and vice versa.

#4: Have a recurring permission slip

The basic purpose of a permission slip is to inform the parent or guardian of your field trip and get their consent for the students to participate. You can’t bring your students off-campus without this.

In my class, since we regularly do field trips, I prefer to make one permission slip for the whole year instead of creating a permission slip each time we’re going off-campus. 

Just make sure you run this by your administration first, as each school has its own rules around field trip permissions.

#5: Practice community independence gradually

If you have students working on being more independent in the community, you can give them a “travel training level” and fade your proximity to the student.

For example, you may have the students side by side with you while traveling to a familiar location for quarter one, but by quarter two, they can move to just being in eyesight.

Of course, each student would have a different goal for what their highest level of independence looks like.

#6: Record travel data

When you’re out in the community a lot, taking data can help you track progress toward your students’ community safety and travel goals.

You can get a clearer picture of what your students are capable of and what areas they may need extra support in.

You can observe how your students behave when off-campus and then have them fill out surveys or questionnaires about their field trip experience.

#7: Train your staff

After creating your travel safety system, you have to make sure that everyone in your classroom is aware of it, including your paras and other support staff.

Train them on how to safely support students during off-campus travel training or field trips so you’re on the same page.

Of course, you can’t just have them read your list of rules and plans. I have my paras sign a form each year stating they’re read the rules and agree to follow them. I also have them “sign out” by the door along with the students before leaving campus. 

Since there are a lot of important topics to cover about travel safety, you need to plan how to train your support staff.

I’ve talked about training paras in my previous blog post and this can help you with planning your safety system training.

You can also check out this fully editable Off-Campus Safety Para Training Binder!

Having An Effective
Travel Safety System

I know how busy special education teachers are with all the planning and preparing materials for the classroom. 

And I also know how burdensome it is to have to go through another round of planning and preparing for your CBI. 

That’s why I try my best to share my best practices and my resources with you.

You can use this free visual resource to hang by the door for all your off-campus safety materials. 

To save the most time, you can get this bundle with all the Community Trip & Public Travel Training resources mentioned in this blog post. 

This will help you keep your students safe during off-campus travel training field trips!

Exploring what to teach your transition students, and overwhelmed by the endless ideas??

Remember that your units of focus will depend on your students’ needs; you can build your own curriculum map for the year by using this guide in conjunction with your students’ IEP goals. 

You can get the Transition Roadmap Scope & Sequence here!

Transition Scope & Sequence