A former New York City high school teacher was banned from returning to the school system after a three year investigation into a field trip to Cuba.
From the Wall Street Journal
A former New York City schoolteacher has been banned from returning to the school system for taking students on a field trip to Cuba, officials said Tuesday.
After a three-year investigation, the New York City special investigator for schools released a report saying Nathan Turner ignored instructions not to go to Cuba and potentially exposed students to civil and criminal penalties.
Mr. Turner took a group of students from Manhattan’s Beacon High School to Cuba in 2007 after New York’s Department of Education and the school’s principal told him to cancel the trip because of a travel ban in place by the U.S. government.
The report said Mr. Turner told the school’s principal that he was a Communist and that he had to go to Cuba “to see Castro one more time before he died.”
Upon returning from Cuba, Mr. Turner and five students were detained at the U.S. border but were eventually allowed to return home. Mr. Turner, 39 years old, who resigned from Beacon in 2008, couldn’t be reached for comment.
While none of the children were harmed, the decision to expel Mr. Turner from the school system comes as the New York City Department of Education is in the midst of reviewing its field-trip policies, which were called into question last month after a middle-school student from Harlem drowned on a field trip to Long Beach.
A spokeswoman said the Department of Education is aiming to adopt stricter rules for school field trips starting this fall, including adding more supervision on trips and more accountability toward following existing procedures. The DOE is currently reviewing the regulations and will likely post any changes for public comment in the coming weeks, she said.
“This was a very different kind of trip than the trip to Long Beach. The DOE said quite firmly to the teacher, you cannot take students on this trip,” said Special Commissioner Richard Condon. “Still, those rules were violated.”
The report said Mr. Turner tried very hard to make it clear to parents that neither the DOE nor the school sanctioned the trip, but still deemed him ineligible to return to New York City schools. “It doesn’t matter that he said it wasn’t a DOE-sanctioned trip. If he wouldn’t have been a teacher in the school, he wouldn’t have had access to the students,” said Mr. Condon, who explained that the investigation took so long to complete because his office spent more than two years in court in order to establish jurisdiction in investigating the case.
The report exonerated the school’s principal Ruth Lacey, who Mr. Condon said tried to prevent the trip from taking place.
What I would like to know is how he manged to get the students to Cuba and back, why the school didn’t notify authorities that this teacher was planning an illegal activity and what in the heck the parents were thinking to allow their children to go on this trip?
The DOE rightfully prevented Turner from returning to the school system but school officials should be reprimanded for their less than diligent efforts to prevent the trip from taking place.