With canceled school trip, a win for the terrorists

School trips to Washington, D.C., are a rite of passage for America’s school kids. But fear has won out in North Ridgeville, Ohio, where school officials have decided the threat of terrorism is too real to risk the eighth-graders’ lives by showing them the capital of the land of the free.

“We were concerned about the potential of any kind of act that might occur,” school superintendent Jim Powell tells the Ridgeville Chronicle. “When you walk along the streets of Washington, there’s really nothing keeping someone from just driving up on the sidewalk, and our students, when they go on that trip, are on the streets quite a bit walking from here and there. We have to take that responsibility for those students.”

Not all parents are happy.

“I wasn’t excited about her leaving in the first place, but I don’t think they should cancel it,” Carol Roy tells the paper. “I think it’s just too much. I think it teaches kids to just stay home and hide. I think they should have just stuck with it. They never had a problem before.”

“I believe it might be useful for the district administration and teachers to read a good book about the subject,” parent Keith Jenkins added. “Its main character is called ‘Chicken Little’ and he is always talking about the sky is falling. I think the decision was made out of ignorance and teaches fear.”

Powell, the school superintendent, pushed back, saying there’s nothing stopping parents from taking their kids to Washington themselves.

He said it’s not a lesson about fear; it’s teaching kids about taking responsibility.

  • wjc

    //Powell, the school superintendent, pushed back, saying there’s nothing stopping parents from taking their kids to Washington themselves.

    Not exactly the point, eh? But it’s the new reaction to any criticism. Distract, distract, distract.

  • Gary F

    That’s sad. My trip to D.C. in tenth grade was one the best experiences in high school.

    Heck, I went there 4 years ago and it was still a blast.

    So, they are telling us that the hundreds of thousands of people that go to work and visit there every day are putting their lives at risk?

    Life is dangerous, kids need to learn that too.

  • jon

    “there’s really nothing keeping someone from just driving up on the sidewalk”

    I did a quick google for middle schools in North Ridgeville, Ohio… I didn’t see any barriers separating sidewalks and motor traffic there either…

    So why doesn’t the school superintendent take some responsibility and protect students at the school from the same threat he is so concerned about in DC?
    Is it because it would cost money to install barriers for a threat that is really really really insignificant?

    Step up or Step out Jim Powell…
    Your students are at risk in front of your own schools, and across your own town, and you’ve done nothing to protect them from the imagined threat you feel exist in DC more than in your home town.

    • MikeB

      This school needs a new superintendent

      • jon

        Nope, concrete barriers around the school, 3 feet of reinforced concrete, guard towers around the perimeter, all students wrapped in bubble wrap and given school approved helmets and bulletproof life jackets. Oxygen drops over all desks in classrooms in case of explosive decompression of the school… full medical staff onsite in the event a student is injured… anything less would be failing to teach our students responsibility.

        Or I mean we could teach students that there are always risks, and while risk mitigation is often worth considering, eliminating all risks is an impossibility… but if that happens then what will the excuse for installing an anti-aircraft battery at every school be?

        • MikeB

          You forgot detention camps and Skynet security

          If he means what he says he’ll also cancel high school football games. In Ohio. For the kids’ safety

  • >>He said it’s not a lesson about fear; it’s teaching kids about taking responsibility.<<

    Oh no, it is indeed a lesson about fear.

    • John O.

      District policies probably (and specifically) preclude him from talking about fear, er… security measures. /endsarcasm

    • Joseph

      Taking responsibility, as in legal responsibility, as in I don’t want to be sued if a kid gets hit by car…. 😛 (*Rollseyestobackofhead*)

  • Erick

    Of course the risks involved in driving from Ohio to Washington far outweigh those from potential terrorists.

  • MrE85

    We may be the land of the free, but we’re clearly not the home of the brave.

    • Mike

      Increasingly, we’re not the land of the free either. Technology has made it all too easy for the government to simply ignore the 4th Amendment. There are all sorts of groups that want to limit 1st Amendment rights, whether it’s freedom of speech, religion, assembly, etc. I guess the only one that’s safe for the time being is the 2nd, and that’s just because it’s lucrative for arms manufacturers.

        • Mike

          Right – more and more, it seems the entire U.S. government is dedicating itself to hollowing out these core civil liberties.

          • aided and abetted by the people who put them in office.

          • Mike

            I think it’s complicated. Both parties have been complicit in the erosion over many decades, and most ordinary citizens did not vote intentionally for these policies. But yes, the general ignorance/indifference of the public combined with the epic corruption in DC has been a powerful combination to enable it.

          • Well the “if you’re not a terrorist, what is the problem?” mentality was pretty ground level.

          • Mike

            If there were one idea I could impress upon the general public, it would be that the authorities are not your friends. There’s a reason the founders of this country enshrined core liberties in the Constitution, and provided us a list of things the government should not be allowed to do.

            “If you have nothing hide, you have nothing to fear” is not an idea that should be endorsed by anyone in an allegedly free society. It’s a capitulation to totalitarianism, but it’s also one that the authorities in this country love to propagate.

          • Jay T. Berken

            I think I understand where you are coming from, but the alternative is Lord of the Flies. You need some security in an open democracy, and that is why we can thank the founders, as you indicated, to have the foresight of the Bill of Rights.

            My question to you, when a tragedy like 911 or Sandy Hook happens, in your mind do you question why the authorities didn’t see this coming? It is a double edge sword.

          • Mike

            I don’t have an expectation that the authorities can prevent every bad act by a deranged person. In a free country, it’s impossible to do so.

            What we can do is better regulate firearms and provide mental health services for the public, but those are exactly the things that the special interests don’t want to see happen. Thus, we get the attacks on civil liberties instead.

          • jon

            This is the internet, plenty of people would argue that regulating firearms is an attack on civil liberties…

            The real issue I see here, isn’t one of government vs people, but one of people vs. people using the government as a weapon in the fight.

            I got the liberties that I want (guns, or freedom of speech I want to say) but you don’t get to have the liberties you want (abortions, or freedom to say hateful things).

            The restrictions on the government are to prevent the government from being leveraged against it’s own people… though the effectiveness of that safety……….

          • What I found interesting about this story — although I realize people want to have a gun debate — is that it’s about cars mowing down people, a fairly recent weaponry in terrorism.

            Terrorists are REALLY good at this fear stuff.

          • jon

            I think we’ll see more car attacks than gun attacks from terrorists in the future…
            Just a matter of resources…

            $20 gets you a van from uhaul (and if you use it for a terror attack they probably won’t be able to charge you for mileage or damages afterwards).
            Guns cost a lot more, and getting vegas shooting arsenals costs a LOT more…

            Terror needs to be cheap, because governments do their best to keep terrorists from getting access to funds.

            Modern terror also needs to be easy, because the attackers need to be expendable… So has to be able to be executed by unskilled attackers… and decentralized, so no skilled labor there to physically assist in preparations prior to an attack… unskilled labor pretty much rules out bombs, to much skill to assemble effective ones without blowing up while doing it…

            So we need something that anyone can do, for cheap, and is hard to defend against… cars fit the bill, guns are too expensive, require too much skill to operate successfully…

            Best way to get a terror attack in a developed nation with a gun is to radicalize some one who already has guns and already knows how to use them…
            Best way to get a terror attack with a car is to radicalize some with with a $20 bill and a driver’s license.

            One of those groups is more prolific in developed nations than the other…

            It will be interesting to see how we opt to defend against these attacks… will we put up more barriers to keep pedestrians seperate from traffic? Will we require background checks to rent/buy a vehicle? Vehicles required to have collisions sensors that cut the gas line to at least minimize the risk to one collision before the car begins to slow? Or perhaps we’ll ban cars, since there is no constitutional right to them… though I think that unlikely…

          • Rob

            I just don’t get all the fear. The likelihood of being the victim of a terrorist attack is less than the chance of being struck by lightning. I’m way more worried about whether I’ll die from cancer or a heart attack than I am about whether a terrorist might run me over.

          • Jay T. Berken

            “What we can do is better regulate firearms and provide mental health services for the public, but those are exactly the things that the special interests don’t want to see happen.”

            I totally agree with better regulation of firearms. I think I agree with you about providing mental health services if you mean helping suicide deaths from firearms.

            But you last point about “attacks on civil liberties”, your comment talks about the private sector attacking your rights in “special interests” (i.e fire arms manufactures, NRA, etc). That is NOT the government.

          • Mike

            Who do you think owns the government? Hint: it’s not you, unless you’re the NRA or another well-financed organization.

          • Jay T. Berken

            I can somewhat agree with that, but we are in a representative government. So you are just making excuses of not doing anything.

          • Rob

            We have a government that is representative of oligarchical interests.

          • Jay T. Berken

            I agree with you. The U.S. form of government needs to be updated to the times. I do not know what would be needed, but moving toward a parliamentary government would help. The ‘winner take all’ form of government is not working in modern times.

          • Rob

            Liberty should trump security; the Patriot Act has it exactly backwards. As Ben Franklin put it: “Those who would sacrifice essential liberty for a little more security deserve neither liberty nor security.”

          • Jay T. Berken

            I also agree, but main purpose of a government is to set up a system in which it helps secures the people of the nation and secures markets within its reach to make the people advance ahead. Otherwise we would have be a Zimbabwe.

          • This was posted today. I’ve always loved Ed Asner. What a great monnicker, though.


          • Mike

            Ha – a great promotion for the book. I agree with the majority of what he says, though I would dispute the notion that defense of civil liberties falls along the traditional left/right spectrum. I would argue that the founders did create limits on government (see Bill of Rights), just not necessarily the ones the right wing likes to imagine. There are also liberals who want the government to transgress those limits (restricting “hate speech,” etc.).

          • Rob

            Most of the traducing of civil rights and civil liberties in modern times has been done by conservatives; it isn’t a “both sides” thing for the most part.

          • Mike

            Agreed that the right bears most of the responsibility, but the attacks on civil liberties are bipartisan to some extent. There’s no greater enabler of mass surveillance and the military-industrial complex than Sen. Diane Feinstein, for example, whose husband is an investor in those industries.

  • BReynolds33

    What I know, right now, from reading this, is that Mr. Jenkins and I would get a long famously.

  • Rob

    The only thing we have to fear is…cowardly school superintendents.

  • Ralphy

    Following this line of logic, the school should never have any sort of group activity. No cross-country team, no bowling, no movies, no parties, no kids in the school…
    That’s it! Homeschool all the kids in reinforced basement bunkers.
    That’ll keep everyone safe.

  • Jim in RF

    Powell is certainly not interested in teaching Statistics or game theory.

  • Jeff

    One of my children had their band trip to Italy cancelled because some parents were concerned about conflict in former Yugoslavia at the time. They could have looked at a map to see how far away it was.

    • Jay T. Berken

      “They could have looked at a map to see how far away it was.”

      It does beg the question if he has been to DC. When I was in Paris in 2010 and the rioting in the suburbs of London was going on. When I got home, was asked if I saw anything…”on tv like you”, I replied. It is like any fear monger that exploits the unknown.

  • andy

    I was lucky enough to attend a high school where there was an annual Senior Class Trip to Washington DC, New York City and Pennsylvania (Gettysburg and Philly). The year of our trip was May, 1993, literally 3 months after the first terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center. One of our planned events was going to the top of the World Trade Center. Our plans didn’t change even after the bombing. I’m so happy for that I’ll always get to remember when we were on the observation desk of the World Trade Center. The fact that trips such as these are being cancelled is very sad.

    • flqueenfan

      My elementary school had an annual 5th grade trip to DC. The trip leaves the weekend of Martin Luther King Day and returns the following weekend.
      Unfortunately, the first Gulf War began the Thursday before our trip. We got postponed because everything in DC was closed. We went in March during one of the largest spring snowstorms in DC history (people from Florida do not like snow and don’t have actual winter gear). Everything was still closed (no Capitol, no White House, no FBI) but we did get to have a snowball fight. 🙂
      Cancelling a trip because of an actual war makes sense. This is foolish.

  • Jay T. Berken

    Thanks Bin Laden.

    • MikeB

      Thanks people who allow themselves and others to be ruled solely by fear

  • Al X

    Too bad. Not only would a terrorist attack have to happen while they were visiting D.C., they would have to be in exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time. The odds of that happening are infinitesimal. Terrorists don’t win by conquer, they win by instilling fear that tears us apart from the inside.

  • Mike Worcester

    Almost ranks up there with schools who were concerned about sending kids on trips to Africa during the height of the Ebola crisis. On the same continent? Yeah, too much risk.

    In this case, I personally find the superintendent’s comments on parents taking their kids themselves a pathetic cop-out. I’m guessing for many of those kids, this will be their one and only chance to visit our nation’s capitol. And now thanks to jump at your own shadow fear, they will lose that chance.

    • John

      My oldest is in the grade that does this trip now. Our school uses a tour company to run the show, and the total cost for just him for 2-3 days (including flight time from MSP to DC) was something close to $5000. I told him I’d rather take the whole family for a week in a couple years when his sister is old enough to really appreciate it too and come out ahead on the game.

      It sure looked like a racket to me.

      • Mike Worcester

        Wow that seems like quite a bit. Guess I’d be curious to hear what other folks have had to pay for their kids’ D.C. trips.