President Donald Trump's travel bans, if enacted, would have wide-reaching ramifications. Canada's largest school district is taking action to ensure the potential effects do not harm their students.
Yesterday, the Toronto District School Board announced that there would be no future school trips to the United States until further notice.
Because the most recent Trump travel ban is currently suspended by federal courts, TDSB has decided that 24 already planned school trips, involving around 800 students, will move forward.
However, they were also clear that if the ban is reinstated, those trips will be canceled. Furthermore, they stated that if U.S. immigration officials were to deny any student with appropriate paperwork from entering the country, the trip for the entire class would end at the border.
"We do not make this decision lightly, but given the uncertainty of these new travel restrictions and when they may come into effect, if at all, we strongly believe that our students should not be placed into these situations of potentially being turned away at the border," explained John Malloy, the district's director of education, in a statement.
For students with immigrant parents, the decision comes as a relief despite their work to raise money for the school trips. Ikran Jama, 17, told The Star how relieved she was to know that there was a plan in place. Jama's parents are from Somalia — one of the countries in Trump's executive order whose citizens could be refused entry in the U.S. — and she said she is nervous about crossing the border despite her Canadian passport. She says that many of her friends with immigrant parents from one of the six countries listed in the travel ban feel the same.
Jama and her friends are just some examples of how the repercussions of Trump's ban extend far beyond the countries specifically mentioned in his executive order. His move toward a more inaccessible America exposes the fatal irony of isolationism: You cannot distance yourself from the world without a tidal wave of consequences. Families become targets, countries become war zones, and the ability to explore and learn from different cultures is stolen from children.
Shelley Laskin, one of the trustee's on the board that unanimously voted in favor of the TDSB decision, summed up the district's difficult, but important, move:
"It's pretty clear there's consensus that we're not going to put our students at risk."
The sheer size of the school district— 246,000 students and 584 schools— catapults their decision into the public eye. However, while the Girl Guides of Canada (similar to the Girl Scouts in the U.S.) also recently canceled all trips across the border, few other schools have followed in Toronto's footsteps — it does not mean they aren't taking note.
"Schools continue to be allowed to plan," said Carla Pereira, spokesperson for the Peel District School Board in Ontario. "But, as always, know that these trips can be canceled at any time if travel advisories change."