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French honor students denied trip to United Nations

Eric Sucar
Katie Abrams from left, Anna Caruso, Francesca Citro and other fellow eighth grade students of the Joyce Kilmer School run through a dress rehearsal for the school's annual Joyce Kilmer Haunted River Walk held along the Mill Pond Path in Milltown on October 20. The annual attraction, entitled "Haunted Disney", brings guests through a trail on the Mill Pond Path.

 

By JACQUELINE DURETT
Correspondent

SAYREVILLE — Whether some French Honor Society students will be able to take a trip to New York during the last week of February is still under review,  the issue has brought up larger concerns about student safety and field trips.

Superintendent of Schools Richard Labbe and some members of the Board of Education disagreed at the Jan. 24 meeting about whether the students should be able to go on the trip. Labbe had rejected a field trip request for the 26 students, the teacher and a chaperone, but Student Council liaison Zachary Corby, in his report to the board, indicated that the French Honor Society students at Sayreville War Memorial High School wanted the board to reconsider.

The exact destination the students would be traveling to visit in New York is a little unclear. The students said they ultimately would like to go to the United Nations and then to a French restaurant for dinner, a trip the club has done in past years. However, the submission for the trip, which was made by a staff member last year, was to a museum and for a meal at a French restaurant.

Corby advocated for the students, pointing out that other student groups have been permitted to go to New York, the trip had been a successful one in the past and the students had fundraised for it, so it was not costing the district any money.

Corby also said that the letter of denial indicated that the itinerary was not closely enough aligned with the curriculum. He disagreed with that assessment as well.

“They’re only allowed to speak strictly French on this trip,” he pointed out, adding that the previous French Honor Society president had enjoyed the United Nations trip so much that she became a volunteer there.

Corby also said he had letters from parents asking the district to reconsider.

Some of the students were in attendance at the meeting requesting the decision be reconsidered and pointed out that they had met the grade requirement to go.

However, Labbe said he is still opposed to the trip.

“My position as the chief school administrator on this hasn’t changed,” he said, explaining that he has a number of concerns about the proposal, including the safety of students and staff while in New York.

“The U.N., in this day and age, is not a very safe place to be sending children to. I’m sorry,” he said.

Board member Phyllis Batko disagreed.

“I guess I don’t understand why going to the U.N. is not safe. Why is that more unsafe than going to a play?” she asked, referencing similar trips students have taken in the past.

“Because it’s a political hot target,” Labbe countered. “If someone’s looking to do harm, it’s more than likely going to take place at a location like the U.N.”

However, board member Anthony Esposito said he felt the U.N. might even be safer than a theater.

The board ultimately decided to refer the matter to its Student Achievement Committee for further review and a recommendation for the meeting on Feb. 7.

After the meeting, Labbe clarified further, explaining that the decision was not one made lightly. He said the staff members are required to submit a request along with a lesson plan that shows the correlation between the trip and what students are studying. Also factoring into the situation are the location and travel time.

Labbe said after a review of the request, he felt there was “insufficient alignment with the curriculum” to send the students on the trip. He also said the time spent out of the classroom in a place he did not consider safe outweighed the potential benefits of the trip.

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