District bans overseas travel

Trustees with Nanaimo-Ladysmith Public Schools place two-year moratorium on trips outside North America

Karl YuBlack Press

In light of the attack in Nice, France, Nanaimo school board has voted to place a two-year moratorium on trips outside North America to allow for review of policy.

Nanaimo school district students were in Nice July 14 as part of a homestay program trip, when a man drove a truck into a crowd enjoying Bastille Day celebrations. While none of the Nanaimo contingent were physically harmed, the district decided to cut the trip short, much to the chagrin of some parents.

Superintendent John Blain said it usually takes two years to plan a trip overseas. The district continues to prioritize student safety and feels the review needs to take place before other such trips occur.

Trustee Jamie Brennan proposed the motion at a board meeting Wednesday night. Brennan said the district was in uncharted territory and it was time to examine what happened.

Trustee Jeff Solomon said there would be risks associated with sending students overseas again.

“We cannot send our kids without thinking that there’s a possibility that something like this incident would occur again because that is the reality that we live in, in this world today,” said Solomon.

Trustee Stephanie Higginson moved to have discussion at the Sept. 7 education committee meeting, but the motion was defeated.

Higginson also voted against the moratorium, saying she wasn’t against the motion per se, but wanted more information.

“I don’t want us making rash decisions that have negative impact on students and I want to have all the information we need to make that decision…” said Higginson.

Steve Rae, school board chairman, said there could be legal issues that arise.

“We’re a school district that are responsible for the lives of kids … we would be liable and our No. 1 goal, other than educating our kids, is the safety of our kids. Staff’s not suggesting that this is something that stops forever, this is stop, figure out the landscape and figure out the best way forward,” said Rae.

The motion will affect a March 2017 school trip that was planned for Vimy Ridge in France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of that crucial First World War battle, as it will be cancelled.

Shauna DeBodt, school district spokeswoman, said the district is working with schools to assess the situation and determine next steps.

Noah Routley, Tania Brzovic and Higginson voted against, while Bill Robinson, Scott Kimler, Rae, Solomon and Brennan voted for.

Trustee Natasha Bob was absent.

Blain said trips within North America will continue to follow the district policy application process and will be screened for safety concerns.

Nanaimo school district parent advisory council was contacted for comment, but has not responded.