In the San Rafael City School Board’s last meeting, one board member questioned the equity of allowing a group of students to travel out of the country during the 2013 spring break.
A group of 25 to 30 students plan to visit Nicaragua to participate in a Spanish immersion community service program. Although she eventually voted with the board to approve the trip, board member Linda Jackson originally requested relocating the trip to allow for immigrant students to participate.
“We spend a lot of time talking about equity,” she said at the meeting. “There are a good percentage of our students who can’t participate because if they left they would not be able to come back.”
Although San Rafael is home to a significant immigrant community, the board did not know the total percentage of students who are not US citizens.
Students who can pay for the trip will travel to Managua where they will work with nonprofit organizations to support a preschool to first grade program. They will plan enrichment activities with the kids, improve the physical site of the school, participate in a pediatric hospital outreach program and tour the cities Managua, Leon and Granada. This will be the fifth that Terra Linda has participated in, according to the staff report.
“This is a successful program. I don’t see penalizing the students,” said board member Jon Loberg, who suggested setting up similar programs that will stay within the country’s borders.
To Jackson, a separate program could instill a false “separate but equal” mentality for immigrant students. A music group at visits other states to perform instead of venturing too close to the Canadian or Mexican border since many of their students would not be able to re-enter the United States, she said.
“I love the idea of this trip,” Jackson said. “But ‘separate but equal’ is not a message that I want students to hear.”
For Paul Cohen, who acts as board president, the real equity issue is socio-economic, since students have to raise $1,500 to go on the trip. Denying students to travel abroad would also deny students valuable life experience, he said.
“I’m not at a point where we should say that we should stop this because not everyone is available,” he said.
The board unanimously approved the trip, with Jackson urging that a similar program that stays within the country be developed.
Do you think a separate program would install a "separate but equal" mentality? Do you think all students should be able to participate in such a program? Tel us in the comments below.