When asked if the board was attempting to make a political statement about its opposition to Trump and his temporary travel ban, Bird replied, “I think this is about the information that we have in front of us. I think it’s about the equity and inclusion angle.”
He then added, “I’m not naïve to say that it doesn’t make a statement, but the decision is not being made as a statement.”
The board’s concern is based entirely on an assumption that some students may be turned away at the border even if their documents are in order. Bird admits this assumption is based on anecdotal information.
“We have heard anecdotal stories of the executive order, in some cases when it was in place before, preventing people even with the appropriate documentation from crossing the border, and we don’t want to put our students in that position,” Bird said. “What we’re saying is if this executive order is fully implemented, it could cause problems for our students and we don’t want to put them in that situation.”
The board is responsible for approximately 245,000 students and routinely okays “dozens” of school field trips to the U.S. every year.
According to Bird, there are 25 trips affecting 900 students that have already been planned, and these will proceed. But TDSB chair Pilkey said Thursday that the group will return home if so much as one student with valid documentation is refused entry to the U.S.
“We’re committed as a school board to equity, inclusiveness and fairness, and it’s not appropriate that some students would not be able to attend based on their country of birth,” Pilkey said.