Windsor school board forbids student trips to United States
Dear Americans who voted for Trump!
Until further notice, our students will not visit the United States for school trips anymore! Yes, Trump voters, here is something you can be real proud of. Your country has been deemed too unsafe for students from Canadian schools. I hope you are happy now. Oh…btw. your tourism bookings from abroad are already down by 6.5%. But you have 330mill. people in your own country. Why not make America great again by spending your own money in your tourism industry? It’s all the result of electing an insane and unpredictable president with a ditto irresponsible political party.
DOUG SCHMIDT, WINDSOR STAR
Published on: February 10, 2017 | Last Updated: February 10, 2017 9:10 PM EST
Detroit is seen over the Detroit River across from the Windsor riverfront.
The local public school board is cancelling all student field trips to the United States because the current American political climate is considered too “unsafe” and unpredictable to permit cross-border travel.
“Paramount for us is student safety … we really don’t know what will happen to our students at the border,” said Clara Howitt, a superintendent with the Greater Essex County District School Board.
A “handful” of trips have already been nixed, with no school travel to America being allowed for the month of February. At the end of the month, the situation will be re-evaluated and decisions made on an individual basis, said Howitt.
U.S. President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Two courts have already struck down the ban but a defiant Trump, arguing the measure is needed to fight terrorism, has vowed to take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, while the American border remains open, for now, to all foreign citizens visiting with proper documentation, Ottawa has begun monitoring the situation and recording instances where Canadians — particularly dual citizens — have been turned around.
“Where one person doesn’t go, nobody goes … we want to make sure nobody is excluded,” said public school board spokesman Scott Scantlebury. Howitt said Windsor boasts multicultural schools with students from many different countries. “We’re trying to make prudent decisions.”
Windsor West MP Brian Masse described as “ironic” the fact some of those cancelled trips were for school classes planning to attend Metro Detroit’s Holocaust Memorial Center.
“If ever there was a point in which the world needed to learn about racism and prejudice and the unspeakable truths that need to be spoken, (now is the time),” Masse told the Star. He accuses the Trump administration — less than a month in power — of already building “a virtual wall” between two countries with such close personal and business ties.
Masse said he’s already heard of Canadians being turned back. Family and friends, he said, are refusing to cross the border in the current climate of uncertainty and unpredictability, and he said he’s even heard of Americans unwilling to visit Canada due to fears of what the reception might be at the border on their return trip.
Masse described his own visit to the “iconic” Holocaust museum as “a life-changing moment.”
In an emailed response to the Star, Holocaust Memorial Center CEO Rabbi Eli Mayerfield said students are encouraged to visit to learn about “ethical conduct and responsible decision-making” and to teach them that “all people can take positive actions to combat hate and bigotry.” Mayerfield said he looked forward to welcoming Windsor’s students.
The Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills is currently hosting a special Anne Frank exhibit that programmers say “shows how people were persecuted by political decisions.”
Howitt said the board contacted U.S. border authorities before making its decision and was advised that any students who were citizens of the seven listed countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia — would be barred from crossing. That was before the most recent court rulings but, as Canadian authorities have acknowledged, there is still much uncertainty.
While there are regulations and guidelines to follow, Masse said individual border agents are given much discretion on deciding for themselves who gets into the U.S.
Masse said the reason Canada and the United States are so close is because “we have all these personal and business relationships that are above the politics.”
But politics are “changing our border,” he added.
Those politics are affecting other plans.
W.F. Herman Academy’s award-winning concert bands fundraise and organize for a big festival trip to the U.S. every couple of years. The junior and senior bands were planning to travel to a music festival in Washington, D.C., in April, but the public school board rejected the trip after discovering the local students would be in the American capital on the same day as a planned massive social justice rally expected to draw more than a half-million protesters.
“If this were a regular school trip, it would be a great trip, but it’s not a safe time for us to be there,” said Herman’s principal Josh Canty. The affected students, he added, are “very disappointed, they worked so hard on this, but it’s just something we’ll have to deal with.”
W.F. Herman, which has more than 1,200 students from JK to Gr. 12 and hosts an ESL program, has students from all over the world, said Canty. The Trump election has certainly boosted everyone’s interest in civics learning, he added.
There is hope an alternate concert band music festival can be found on the Canadian side of the border this spring, school officials say.