Did the Doctor Need Courtney Woods to Have a Permission Slip to Travel in the TARDIS?

The Doctor Who episode “The Caretaker” ends with the Doctor taking the 14-year-old student Courtney Woods (who called herself “Destructive Influence”) on a trip in the TARDIS to dispose of Skovox Blitzer in deep space.

Could a school janitor take a 14-year-old off school premises in a time machine without a permission slip? The law in most countries would say no.

TimeLords_PermissionSlips_6152The state of California is a good example of the requirements for conducting a “field trip.” A school district can conduct ” excursions in connection with courses of instruction or school-related…educational…activities” within the state, outside of the state, or in a foreign country.  Trips abroad can be “permitted to familiarize students with the language, history, geography, natural sciences, and other studies relative to the district’s course of study for pupils.” Cal Ed Code § 35330(a)(1).

Legally speaking, leaving planet Earth for a distant section of space would be “outside of the state.” As the Doctor took Courtney just into space, she was not in “a foreign country,” but an interstellar void.

A school district has broad immunity on field trips, because “all persons making the field trip or excursion shall be deemed to have waived all claims against the district for injury, accident, illness, or death occurring during or by reason of the field trip or excursion.” Wolfe v. Dublin Unified School Dist., 56 Cal. App. 4th 126, 128 (Cal. App. 1st Dist.1997), citing Cal Ed Code § 35330.

However, there is one giant requirement with field trips: Students need written parental consent to go on a field trip. This consent is known as a “permission slip.” Generally speaking, students who do not have a signed permission slip remain at a school in an alternative activity. Wolfe v. Dublin Unified School Dist., 56 Cal. App. 4th 126, 128 (Cal. App. 1st Dist.1997).

Some permission slips need to explain what the students are doing and know risks in order for parents to give their informed consent (such as after school sports). As such, parents are giving their express agreement to assume the risk of the activity. Such express agreements are valid if they do not violate public policy.  Allan v. Snow Summit, Inc., 51 Cal. App. 4th 1358, 1372 (Cal. App. 4th Dist.1996).

Which brings us to the Doctor and Courtney. It is highly unlikely there was a permission slip signed by Courtney’s parents for her to travel into space. Just imagine what such a permission slip would look like to include known risks. While there would be high educational value in deep space exploration with an alien to dispose of an alien war machine, the risk of doing so would in no way be approved by a school district, even with Ian Chesterton as headmaster.

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Josh Gilliland
Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.