Can you imagine how traumatic it would be for a high school student to be detained at the Waneta or Paterson border crossing?
Or for students in School District 20 (SD20) to witness a classmate, teacher or even their bus driver being held back from an outing to the United States?
Teri Ferworn, district chair, says safety of all students was the primary reason the board agreed to hold a moratorium on school travel to the U.S. this fall.
What that means, unless there is a drastic turnaround, is no J.L. Crowe grad class trips to Silverwood (Idaho) or high school participation in sports events south of the border.
The Trail Times reached out to Crowe principal David DeRosa for comment, but did not hear back by press time.
While a travel ban may disappoint some, Ferworn is hopeful that students and parents consider the bigger picture.
“We don’t know who they are going to include or exclude when we try to cross the border,” she said. “Of course, student safety is what we focused on. But there are higher principles that we hope parents are looking at, like equality, inclusiveness and fairness.”
SD20 will take the lead on what certain east and west coast schools have already agreed upon – no class trips to the States.
The student travel prohibition follows a new executive order U.S. President Donald Trump signed on March 6. The order significantly narrows the “travel ban” for nationals of certain countries from a previous version Trump signed in January.
To date, Ferworn has not received any local reports of students being detained, but it’s a risk the board is not willing to take come September.
“I did some research before I brought this motion forward,” Ferworn explained, referring to the school’s travel ban to the U.S. this fall. “It sounds like there haven’t been many (students detained), there’s been a couple on the coast,” she added. “But what a lot of schools have chosen is to self-exclude themselves from crossing the border due to classmates that could potentially not accompany them – they are making that altruistic decision on their own – they believe in supporting people with diversities.”
The Girl Guides of Canada and the Toronto school district have already decided not to travel south.
“They have exponentially more families with diverse backgrounds,” Ferworn said. “But we have families with diverse backgrounds as well.”
She questioned, “Would it really be appropriate for a student to not join a baseball team, for example, because they always do a trip across the border?”
SD20 will not exclude students from activities they love to do, Ferworn emphasized.
“I know it will be very disappointing for (some) students, but I do hope they’ll be able to to understand,” she said. “And to look for something within Canada.”
Trump’s new executive order went into effect March 16. Some key points include nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are banned from entering the U.S. during the 90-day period, however the ban does not apply to U.S. Legal Permanent Residents.
According to a March 10 legal bulletin from the B.C. School Trustees Association, there are many verified reports of visitors to the U.S. who are not from the affected countries being denied entry and/or undergoing more sustained questioning and vetting when seeking entry to the United States.
The association states, “this could be due to an actual increase in these situations occurring, or it could be due to increased awareness of the issue. Regardless, it is important to note that U.S. Constitutional protections are much more limited at the border.”
The bulletin warns of a commonplace item most students have in their hands these days, one that could present border complications. That is, of course, the cell phone.
“CPB (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) has the ability to inspect not only your suitcases and bags, but also laptops, smartphones, tablets and similar, and to review any documents, including email correspondence, contained within … and we do have some verified reports of individuals being denied entry after expressing anti-Trump sentiments … Visitors to the U.S. should be mindful of the possibility and may wish to limit what they bring with them, as well as be sure there is nothing that could be interpreted incorrectly in their social media posts and emails.”
What a world we live in, Ferworn said.
“We did say the moratorium would be looked at again in September,” she concluded. “But we did discuss that should happen in the meantime, such as the ban be implemented or taken off, we would look at it again before then. Until we get more clarity around that, (it will be status quo).”