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School Trip To D.C. Canceled Over Fears Of Mass Shooting


An eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C., can often be the highlight of grade school - see the White House, meet your member of Congress. But students from North Ridgeville City School District outside of Cleveland, Ohio were notified recently their D.C. trip was canceled. Administrators called it off because of fears of a terrorist attack or a mass shooting. District Superintendent Jim Powell had to make the decision. And he joins us now from Avon, Ohio to talk about it. Welcome to the program.

JIM POWELL: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So that must have been a tough call.

POWELL: Very tough - yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you give us a sense of why you decided to make it?

POWELL: Well, start of the school year, we had parent meetings. And we had several parents express concerns about the safety of the trip. You know, it's a eight-hour trip sending kids away from their homes. It's a huge...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It was going to be on a bus? - by road?

POWELL: Yes - on a bus, on the road. So we had a lot of parents expressing concern over the safety of the trip.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is this unusual, though? I mean, I imagine that these class trips take place every year. Why are so many parents deciding that their kids shouldn't go?

POWELL: The other issue that has come up - the incident in Manhattan where the person drove up on the walking trail...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Down near the World Trade Center.

POWELL: Yes. You know, as students walk in Washington, they walk along the road. And there's nothing keeping them from the traffic. So our teachers were concerned about that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: May I ask you, sir, is this the first time you've ever had to cancel a trip like this because of these fears?

POWELL: It is not. When I was not superintendent - I was actually the assistant superintendent. That was - I was in a different district at that time. But yes, a lot of districts canceled trips for students back when 9/11 occurred.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right after September 11th...


GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...And the terrorist attack then.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: We've seen incidents can occur just about anywhere, whether in a small town or a big city. And they're not just about terrorism. You know, in California just this past week, a shooter got into a kindergarten. And what saved the kids was that they had a protocol, that they went on lockdown. Do you have those protocols in place in your school district?

POWELL: We certainly do. Yes. Yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is there a sense, though, that this really could happen anywhere?

POWELL: I certainly have that sense. And I worry about it all the time. It's a little easier to control if they're in their home where they're typically at, whether that be the school or whether their home environment. But you're exactly right.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Were you surprised that this should come up now? I mean, is the world so different today than it was a year ago or two years ago that people feel the need to really hold the kids at home and keep them safe?

POWELL: I'm not judging anyone. And if they feel that way, they feel that way. It's surprising to me. I've gone to Washington, D.C., and I've taken all my kids. So it's - I think they feel like this is my responsibility as a parent. I'll do it. At least, I know my kids are safe. And it's not falling on the responsibility of people that are not their parents. So if that's their choice, I totally understand that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jim Powell is the superintendent of the North Ridgeville School District in Ohio. Thank you very much for joining us today.

POWELL: You're very welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRIAN BLADE'S "AT THE CENTERLINE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.