Greater Victoria School District puts class trips to U.S. on hold


Greater Victoria school district


Written by Katie Derosa

Schools in the Greater Victoria district will not plan any more trips to the U.S. until there’s more certainty around that country’s travel restrictions.

The school board’s decision is to ensure no students or staff are denied entry to the U.S. because of faith or ethnicity, something that has happened to other Canadians since U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries. The order has been suspended by a court order.

“What the board has supported is that moving forward for the 2017-18 school year, that no travel to the U.S. be planned,” said Superintendent Piet Langstraat.

The board has also encouraged teachers and parents to find other alternatives for trips to the U.S. where deposits have not yet been paid.

There are 10 trips with 410 students planned for the remainder of the school year where deposits have been paid. That includes Lambrick Park Secondary’s senior boys baseball academy plans to travel to San Jose, California, on March 6 and a plan to send Spectrum Secondary’s band to Washington state.

Whether those trips go ahead will be decided by Langstraat on a case-by-base basis, after consultation with parents and students. The first step is to determine if any participants could be affected by the travel ban.

Langstraat said the board’s decision is not a political statement about Trump’s executive order, but rather a reflection of the district’s principles of equality, respect and social justice.

“The basic notion in our learning community is that if it affects one of us, it affects all of us,” Langstraat said. “There are 83 Syrian refugee students in our school district. Even if they aren’t on any planned field trips, it’s very much about the message to our educational community.”

Trump’s executive order temporarily banned people from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the U.S. The Trump administration has said it would release a new executive order this week. On Tuesday, four U.S. officials said Trump would remove Iraq from the list of countries whose citizens face a temporary U.S. travel ban.

Several Canadians of Moroccan descent — a country that is not on the current list of seven — were denied entry to the U.S. at the Quebec border last month after being questioned about their faith and asked for their views on Trump.

The Sooke school district will discuss school trips to the U.S. at its meeting tonight.

It has asked Canadian and U.S. border agencies about the status of students travelling on field trips to the U.S. and sought advice from the B.C. School Trustees Association legal counsel, said superintendent Jim Cambridge.

Cambridge said the school board has to consider the “moral and ethical question” about whether to send a complete class or team of students to the U.S. when there’s the potential for one of them to be singled out and turned away at the border.

“We certainly don’t want any of our immigrant students discriminated against because of their place of birth,” Cambridge said.

Keven Elder, superintendent of the Saanich school district, said there is no plan to cancel trips already been planned by clubs and sports teams.

“The trips are all going ahead, but we’re making sure parents are aware of their opportunity to back away from the trip if it’s their wish,” Elder said. “We’ve not heard yet from any parents who are wishing to have their children excused from the trips.” [Read More at Times Colonist…]

Last modified: March 1, 2017

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