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Alberta school board cancels international trips over safety concerns

EDMONTON — Concerns about growing violence around the world, including mass shootings in the United States, have prompted at least one Alberta school board to cancel all international field trips.


December 8, 2015
By John Cotter for The Canadian Press

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The Edmonton Catholic School District has sent a memo to all staff saying the decision affects 20 trips for the rest of the school year and is based on concern for student safety.

The memo sent Monday on behalf of Pat Lema, assistant superintendent of school operations, notes “recent events” in Paris and California.

“Recent media reports advise that there have been 355 mass shootings in 336 days in the United States, which confirms that acts of violence can occur anywhere at any time,” reads the memo.

“This new statistic illustrates our concern for the safety and well-being of students and staff when travelling.”

The school district was to send a similar note to parents.

“With recent events in Paris and California, and heightened concerns in other cities, we feel it best to limit our travels to within Canada for the remainder of this school year.”

An organization that provides insurance for school districts in Alberta is recommending that all school boards reconsider any international travel.

The Alberta School Boards’ Insurance Exchange says terrorist attacks are growing and the Islamic State’s aggressive disregard for human life makes the group dangerous and volatile.

“The unpredictability of ISIS as to where these extremists will hit next is a concern, as they have supporters throughout the world,” reads the bulletin sent to school boards.

“The teacher in charge, the principal, and the school board have a legal obligation to ensure a safe and caring environment. Student, staff and chaperone safety should be first and foremost.”

The insurance bulletin also notes that school boards have a responsibility to educate, but not to put travellers in a potentially hazardous situation.

The Calgary Catholic School District also cancelled all international travel Monday, citing safety concerns, but did not specifically mention terrorism, shootings or violence.

“After some consultation with some of our stakeholder groups we have determined that we will be putting a moratorium on our international travel,” said Tanya Younker, a school district spokeswoman.

“That will be re-evaluated in September 2016.”

— With files from CHQR