Canadian school board bans student trips to U.S.

DETROIT — A public school board in Windsor, Ontario, has canceled all field trips to the U.S. — including visits to the Detroit Opera Houseand the Holocaust Memorial Center — over concerns that some students could be detained or turned back at the border.

Clara Howitt, superintendent of the 35,000-student Greater Essex County District School Board, told the Detroit Free Press on Sunday that the decision to cancel the trips was made last Monday and is in effect through the end of the month, when senior administrators will re-evaluate the situation.

The cancellations include planned trips to the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Mich., and to see the Lion King at the Detroit Opera House. An April trip to a music festival in Washington, D.C., also was canceled because it coincides with a planned political rally that might draw a half-million protesters and pose a safety hazard, Howitt said.

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The story on the canceled field trips was first reported by the Windsor Star.

Howitt said the board's decision was aimed at protecting students' safety and well-being following the U.S. travel ban that targeted seven predominately Muslim countries and was ordered by President Trump. Recent court decisions have suspended the travel ban.

“It's just right now the uncertainty of whether all of our students would be able to cross," she said.

More than a decade ago, following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Howitt said, a group from the Windsor district, which includes students from multicultural backgrounds, was detained at the border while attempting to cross. That was a period when border security was especially tight.

"So having had that experience in the past, we are just demonstrating due diligence at this period of uncertainty," she said.

The Holocaust Memorial Center on Sunday wouldn't comment specifically about the school board's decision. In a written statement, the center's Chief Executive Officer Rabbi Eli Mayerfeld said, "we believe that all students in grades eight through 12 should visit the museum to learn about the Holocaust and other genocides in order to prevent these atrocities from happening again. Through education, all people can take positive actions to combat hate and bigotry."

A Detroit Opera House representative could not be reached for comment.

Follow JC Reindl on Twitter: @jcreindl

(© 2017 USA TODAY)


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