Administrators cancel school trips after terrorist threats

Many districts skipped visits to New York City and Washington, D.C.
By: | Issue: March, 2016
February 22, 2016

The November terrorist attack on Paris and ensuing threats to major U.S. cities led many administrators nationwide to cancel class spring break trips in efforts to keep students safe. The decisions, in many cases, disappointed students, parents and city officials in popular tourist destinations.

The Student & Youth Travel Association, a nonprofit trade group that arranges trips for 3 million students per year, had 10 cancelations. These were primarily for trips to New York City and Washington, D.C.Ñtwo of the top 5 U.S. student travel destinations, according to the association. Some of its other trips changed destinationsÑfor example, one group went to Montreal instead of Paris, says Executive Director Carylann Assante.

Many superintendents contacted the group to review crisis communication plans and safety practices for managing students while traveling, she adds.

“Many administrators were thinking of the message it sends to students if we cancel a school trip,” Assante says. “Travel is supposed to broaden students’ horizons, introduce them to the world beyond their school and break down barriers that could potentially break down terrorism.”

If administrators choose to cancel a trip, they should check their contracts, deposits and cancellation clauses to see if they can rebook it or receive a refund, Assante says. To avoid student disappointment, you can possibly replace the trip with an alternative experience or trip nearby. “Talk openly with the students, so they know that their opinions matter, but the school had to make this decision,” Assante says.

Get students back home

After the Paris attacks and subsequent videos distributed by Islamic State social media outlets showing images of Manhattan and Washington, D.C., several schools nationwide cancelled or postponed trips to both cities, despite federal and city officials stating the threats were not credible.

Superintendent George Solter of New Jersey’s North Bergen School District cancelled all student trips to New York City for the rest of the school year. The decision was made after meeting with the district leadership team.

The district is located near the Lincoln Tunnel, which connects New Jersey and Manhattan. “If our students are in New York City, and there is an issue and they close down the bridges and tunnels, my concern is getting them home at the end of the day,” Solter says. “We have plenty of similar venues in New Jersey that we don’t have to go over the bridges to get to.”

Students will see a play at a regional in-state theater instead of going to Broadway, and visit an in-state aquarium rather than heading to Coney Island. “It comes down to how the teacher is going to bring the trip into the curriculum,” Solter says. “We didn’t think crossing the river and something happening was worth it.”