Restrictions on school field trips to Baltimore has been met with mixed reaction, with some applauding Carroll County Public Schools and the Sheriff’s Office for making the decision to halt trips to the city because of recent violence, and others questioning the rationale.

Trying to sort out perception versus reality in regards to violence in the city is no easy task. There is no question that violence in parts of Baltimore is indeed “out of control,” to quote the city’s mayor, Catherine Pugh. And yes, recently, there have been some incidents near tourist destinations of the city like the Inner Harbor that may be making some parents uneasy.


But what’s happening in the city right now isn’t anything like what was occurring during the civil unrest and rioting in 2015, the last time CCPS decided to temporarily ban field trips to Baltimore. Make no mistake, Baltimore has some serious problems with violence and murder that need to be addressed, much of which occurs in blighted neighborhoods and is related to the drug trade.

Not to be flippant, but these aren’t field trips to West Baltimore to observe heroin deals. These are trips to what are, for the most part, controlled and tightly secured learning environments.

Beyond that, the policy seems to be lacking in consistency. An email from Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Steven Johnson sent last week to administrative staff indicates field trips to Baltimore that can be rescheduled to another location or canceled should be, and no new field trips to the city are to be planned for the time being. Many schools also schedule field trips to Philadelphia, where the homicide rate is at a five-year high, and Washington, D.C., where 135 people were killed last year. Why no concern about those trips?

The new policy also notes that trips that cannot be canceled due to prepayment can go on, but are not to include “free time” or “lunch on your own.” Certainly, we could understand parent frustration if they had already plunked down a nonrefundable $20 to send their child to the National Aquarium, for example, but if safety is truly the concern, why should a few dollars make a difference whether the trip should go on or not?

In fact, it seems CCPS may have hit on an obvious solution, which is to limit students’ free time to explore the city (with a chaperone, of course) during these trips rather than canceling them outright.

It seems unfair for certain students to be denied experiencing the wonders of the National Aquarium or Maryland Science Center as part of their biology class, for art students not to be able to observe some of the works they are learning about on display at the Walters Art Museum, or for band members not to be able to perform in a major, positive event in the city, as is the case with the Francis Scott Key marching band that was invited to be part of the Christmas parade on Sunday.

Having to settle for a bagged lunch in the venue or on the bus trip home rather than dining at the Hard Rock Café across from the aquarium or Johnny Rocket’s in Harborplace seems like a more than adequate trade-off so students aren’t missing out on these experiences. We would hope that the school system would consider this a more reasonable solution when they revisit the policy before the start of the second semester.

From a safety perspective, while we certainly recognize the importance of our students’ well-being and minimizing risk, ultimately parents are the ones who can make that decision when they sign a permission slip for their student. Parents uncomfortable with their child going to Baltimore — or on any other field trip — simply need not give permission.

Some parents, particularly those who have already signed up to be chaperones for these trips and have scheduled time off work, might consider taking their children anyway. Perhaps in situations like these, the school system could offer an excused absence for students whose parents want to take their children to Baltimore on a school day to enjoy these cultural, learning experiences.

Unfortunately, not every parent has the means to do this. They can’t afford to take a day off work or pay expensive admission costs for their child and themselves. For these kids, school field trips — which are often offered at a reduced rate — might be their only opportunity to ever get to these places.