The mother of a boy injured in the Lilydale Park landslide on May 22 is concerned that a new field trip permission slip sent home this week with students at Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park is largely intended to protect the school from liability, not protect children.
Nine-year-old Haysem Sani and 10-year-old Mohammed Fofana, fourth graders at the school died when a section of Mississippi River bluff collapsed on them as they searched for fossils at the park during a field trip. Fourth grader Devin Meldahl, who was buried in the landslide, survived.
In the wake of the tragedy, parents said that school officials didn't tell them enough about the field trip to Lilydale and the dangers their children might face there, even though the school was required to when it received a fossil hunting permit from the city of St. Paul.
Facing parent scrutiny and the possibility of litigation related to the field trip and the landslide, the school district changed Peter Hobart School's field trip permission slips this year.
Danielle Meldahl, Devin's mother, was concerned when she saw language in the new form that would appear to absolve the school or those supervising the trip of any responsibility if something goes wrong.
"I'm not comfortable signing it and saying, 'I'm going to send my kid with you' and you're not responsible if something happens," Meldahl said.
The form came home with her younger son, who is a first grader at Peter Hobart Elementary.
St. Louis Park School District spokesperson Sara Thompson said district leadership met over the summer, and in consultation with the district's attorney, decided that they could improve the permission slips and provide additional information to parents.
Thompson said the forms have only been sent out so far for first and second grade students. Forms for the other grades will follow in the coming weeks.
Last year, a blanket permission slip covered all field trips for the year, but said nothing about where students would be going.
This year's form includes a list of all field trips for the entire year. The list is different for each grade.
Toward the bottom of the page, where parents must sign to give their children permission to go on a field trip, the school included this language:
"We understand the arrangements described above and believe the necessary precautions and plans for the care and supervision of students during the field trip will be taken. Beyond this we will not hold the school or those supervising the trip responsible."
Thompson said the language was added to the permission slip at the direction of the school district's attorney. She said the district wants to provide as much clarity to parents as possible, and encourages parents to contact their teacher or school principal if they have any concerns about the language.
Meldahl has not decided yet whether to sign the permission slip for her younger son or for Devin when he receives the 5th grade form sometime this month.
You can see more on this story at KARE11.com.
• More video on this story from KARE 11
• Report says St. Paul didn't know of danger
• Download and read the Sept. 5, 2013 reports
• Video: Parents recall an emotional day
• Video: Parents say they weren't warned of risks
• Story: Family, community mourns children who died
• Photos: Scenes from the May 22 rescue and recovery
• Why Lilydale is a good place for fossils