Citing concerns about immigration and border control, the Kent School Board on Wednesday night unanimously agreed to stop all student international travel for the foreseeable future, including the Kentlake High music program’s upcoming trip to Victoria, British Columbia.
The decision has some parents and students upset and frustrated. About 120 students in Kentlake’s band, orchestra and choir programs were scheduled to travel to Victoria to take part in the May 20-22 Victoria Days Parade–a 20-year tradition in the school’s history.
The board also denied on Wednesday a request for travel approval for four high school students to go to Osaka, Japan, for two weeks in July.
“While supportive of field trip programs, and in agreement that trips like this are both instructional and enriching, the current political climate regarding immigration and border control is of significant concern,” district spokesman Chris Loftis said in an email. “Specifically, the board felt that there is a strong likelihood that any KSD student traveling across the border without proper documentation could be detained and not allowed to return. As a matter of law and practice, KSD does not and cannot identify students by their documentation status. Therefore, the board felt that the best path forward for the time being is to forgo any international travel so that no student is faced with the prospect of disclosing their documentation status or not being a part of a district sanctioned trip.”
Christine Mastroff, whose daughter is a junior at Kentlake and a band member, said the requirements for students to go on the trip have not changed. Each student has to have either a passport or, if they are under the age of 18, a birth certificate and photo ID along with a signed permission slip from their parent or guardian.
“It’s no different than any previous year,” said Mastroff, who has chaperoned the trip the past couple of years and was planning to go this year as well. “If somebody doesn’t have proper documents, they can’t go, no matter what.”
Mastroff said she doesn’t think there are any students planning on going on the trip who don’t have the proper documentation.
Loftis stressed the district cannot identify students by their documentation or immigration status.
“Every student has just as much right to take band as any other, and so by definition all of the band activities we offer must be open and available to all,” he said. “That means we cannot ask a student to stay behind because of their documentation status. Nor can we allow them to self-disqualify from a trip as that is a form of documentation status identification and discrimination.”
Parents, including Mastroff, are also disappointed the decision was made three weeks before the scheduled trip and they were not informed about the board’s concerns ahead of time.
“The whole process they went through, we felt was not appropriate,” Mastroff said. “They did not do their due diligence.”
According to board policy, “field trips that take students out of state must be approved in advance by the school board,” and “international travel requires the completion of the Employee Travel Authorization form and must be approved (regardless of the funding sources) by immediate supervisor, department/division head, superintendent and board.”
Paperwork for the Victoria trip was submitted in mid-February and went through the proper channels for approval by mid-March.
Loftis said the board waited to make the decision for several reasons, including White House travel bans going through the court system and the “sometimes confusing messaging emanating from the White House and Immigration and Custom Enforcement on how they are interpreting and implementing new border policies.”
“It is highly regrettable to all that there are students and families that are caught in a specific situation of the B.C. field trip where planning is already at such an advanced state,” Loftis said. “The district is committed to finding fair resolution to those issues and is actively reviewing options. But once a decision on student safety, equity, and non-discrimination is made, it must be implemented immediately and the secondary issues pertaining to the timing of that implementation, frustrating as they may be, simply must be addressed to best of our abilities.”
This story originally appeared in the Kent Reporter.