The Baltimore County school board has lifted the ban on field trips abroad that it instituted after the terrorist attacks a year ago today and instead will review requests for such trips on a case-by-case basis while making regular checks to ensure that destinations are safe.
The board unanimously agreed to rescind the ban, which forced the cancellation of trips to Spain, France and other destinations last school year out of concern that students could be stranded abroad during another terrorist attack.
Sanford V. Teplitzky, a board member who favored a case-by-case review when the issue was raised last year, praised the new policy as a "reasoned, reasonable" way to allow students to travel to safe overseas destinations, thereby enhancing their education.
"Foreign travel gives students an opportunity to see in person the things they study in school," he said in an interview after the vote Monday night.
Although students have regained the opportunity to travel abroad, school officials and board members emphasized that their requests will have to pass a more stringent review process before trips are given final clearance.
Teachers and parents must seek permission for the trip six months in advance. Principals and central staff will review the requests to make sure they fit into the curriculum. Officials also will monitor State Department advisories up to the departure date.
Schools must make clear to parents that the system does not assume financial liability for any disruptions to travel schedules, and staff will encourage the booking of trips with travel insurance that compensates parents for sudden changes or cancellations.
The board approved the new policy on an expedited basis, bypassing its normal procedure of inviting public comment over three meetings to help teachers and parents gain approval for overseas trips in the spring.
Jan Brinch, whose son David wants to go on a Ridgely Middle School band trip to England, Scotland and Wales in the spring, said she supported the board's decision but was wary about dangers abroad.
"My son wants to go, and I want to go," said Brinch, who would be a chaperone on the trip. "But I'm a little nervous."
The policy change does not affect the rules on day trips, which a principal must approve, and overnight trips, which principals and central staff must review on a case-by-case. Permission for these trips must be sought 60 days in advance..