Faced with the prospect of having to leave behind four Iranian classmates at the U.S. border due to travel restrictions proposed by President Donald Trump, the graduating students at Montreal’s Westmount High School had a decision to make: Should they take their chances or sacrifice their planned class trip?
Their original itinerary was going to take them on a tour through Washington and Philadelphia this spring. But the border issue led to a debate and, ultimately, to a change of plans – the class will now be travelling to Toronto and Niagara Falls, instead. It is not quite as exciting, but it will keep everyone together.
“We’re not trying to take any political stand,” said Westmount teacher Sabrina Jafralie, who organized the trip. “It was just that we don’t want to be separated from anybody. The kids were very clear that … we’re a family and we were going to travel together.”
The climate in the United States and terrorist attacks in parts of Europe has led to potentially unprecedented decisions across Canada around school trips. Educators are forced to rethink taking students to traditional destinations in the United States and parts of Europe as they consider safety issues and border restrictions.
Canada’s largest board, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), was the latest to say it will stop booking trips to the United States in light of the uncertainty surrounding restrictions at the border – raising the question of whether schools are overreacting or being prudent.
The TDSB said last week that already planned trips – 24 of them involving about 800 students – would go ahead, but that groups will return home if any students with appropriate documentation are turned away at the border. Further, those 24 trips would be cancelled and refunded if U.S. orders are approved that would bar certain students from crossing the border.
Ryan Bird, a spokesman for the TDSB, said school administrators are not overreacting by issuing new rules about school trips to the United States.
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