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School District In Canada Cancels Trips To U.S., Citing Border Policies, Safety

Saying it won't risk having to leave any students at the border because of new U.S. policies, a public school district in Windsor, Ontario, has canceled upcoming school trips south of the border. Some trips had been slated for this month; a visit to Washington, D.C., was canceled over safety concerns owing to a protest that's planned around the same time, officials say.

The decision was made out of caution, says the Greater Essex County District School Board, which cites uncertainty over President Trump's immigration and travel ban that targets citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations. While that ban has been put on hold by federal courts, legal arguments over it are still working through the judicial system.

"We are just not completely clear on what might happen should a student's documentation be questioned and we would not want any of our students being denied entry," school board spokesman Scott Scantlebury says.

The directive isn't permanent and will be reviewed at the end of February.

"We hope that by the end of the month we have a better, clearer idea of the situation so that these field trips can resume," Scantlebury says.

With 71 schools and around 35,000 students, the Greater Essex County District includes both Essex County and Windsor, the Canadian city that sits just across the Detroit River from downtown Detroit.

Citing a school board trustee, the CBC reports, "many Syrian children who could potentially get banned from crossing the border have started attending schools in the area."

Some of the Canadian classes had planned to make the short trip to the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Mich., the Windsor Star reports.

And at the district's W.F. Herman Academy, students who play in the school's concert bands were "very disappointed" to learn the board had canceled their trip to Washington for a music festival in April, the Star adds. In blocking the visit, the board said a large rally and protest that is slated to overlap with the multiday festival could create an unsafe environment for the students.

The school district's travel ban on visits to the U.S. comes days after a Canadian college athlete who has Moroccan roots was refused entry to the U.S. as his track team traveled for a meet in Boston.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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