Schools Across Country Cancel Trips Amid War Worries

Superintendent Wayne Scarlett doesn't see much sense in letting his students fly to Europe when Americans traveling abroad are being advised to keep a low profile.

"That's pretty tough to do if you're a high school group," said Scarlett, whose tiny Jamaica school district is in central Illinois. "It's like you have a target on your back."

The district this month canceled a June trip to Europe for 15 high school students, as well as an annual trip to Washington, D.C., for about 40 eighth-graders. The reason: heightened terrorism concerns since the start of the war with Iraq.

It's a scene being repeated at schools from Vermont to Florida and from North Carolina to California. Trips to places as far away as Europe and Asia and as close as the museum in a nearby town have been scrubbed. Whether it's to learn about finance on Wall Street or to ride on Dumbo at Disney World, thousands of students are being told it's just not worth the risk.

The public school system in Scotland County, N.C., canceled all out-of-state trips. "Our concern was taking the kids anywhere in large metropolitan areas or areas that could be potential targets," Superintendent Nancy Prince said.

That was the attitude in Essex Junction, Vt., where the Essex Middle School canceled a trip by eighth graders to Washington. They will instead spend two days in Montreal.

"I think since we are bombing Iraq's capital, they would probably do the same thing to us," said Shannon Jackson a 14-year-old student at the school.

Michelle Jackson was relieved that her son's trip to the nation's capital was canceled. Besides, she said, "Seeing the Capitol, the monuments and the White House either under guard or closed is a type of education, I suppose, but it is not what I wanted my son to see."

Concerned educators in Fairfax County, Va., also canceled trips to the nation's capital -- less than 20 miles away.

"We're very close and in some ways it feels very strange to people," said Paul Regnier, a district spokesman. But, he said, "It still appears there is a threat of domestic terrorism, and the Washington, D.C., area and New York City have more of these potential targets than other parts of the country."

School officials said some parents and students have complained, saying the cancellations amount to giving in to terrorists. But administrators said they are just dealing with a world that has changed dramatically, from the Sept. 11 attacks to the Washington-area sniper to the war in Iraq.

They say -- and some students agree -- that it is simply impossible to protect students.

"So many people are anti-American," said Ben Baird, an 18-year-old senior at Jamaica High School who was headed to Europe.

Some schools are canceling trips of any kind, including Canandaigua Academy in the Finger Lakes region of New York, which even called off day trips to museums in nearby Rochester.

Others have not. The Chicago public schools this week lifted the moratorium on out-of-state trips, while continuing to prohibit any international trips.

In New York, the city's education department is leaving the decisions to individual schools.

"New York City is a targeted city, so schools are vigilant anyway," spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said. "So they know to be more aware and be more cautious."

In the Albany, N.Y., suburb of Bethlehem, Superintendent Leslie Loomis canceled a student trip to Boston. But Loomis is allowing trips to "less high profile destinations" such as Cooperstown, the home of baseball's Hall of Fame.

And in Montgomery County, Md., the public schools district continues to allow trips to nearby Washington, while canceling all trips beyond a 75-mile radius and all overnight trips.

But, said district spokesman Brian Porter, "We have advised (schools) that high tourist areas there are not a good idea at this time."