Utah School Cancels China Trips

From 2012 in Utah:

Davis School District recently became one of the first school districts in the country to be named a Confucius Institute by the Confucius Institute headquartered in Beijing.

With the designation comes almost $600,000 in grant money for the district’s Chinese programs.

The Confucius Institute in Beijing gives the grant money to schools to continue promoting the study of the Chinese language and culture. In the past, the Confucius designations have been given to universities with prestigious programs. This is the first year the Chinese administration has opened it up to school districts in the United States.

“It is a great honor to be one of the very first to receive this award as this little place on the Wasatch Front that has become a mecca for Chinese learning,” said Bonnie Flint, the district’s Secondary World Language supervisor.

Flint said the Davis School District has more students studying Chinese and more guest teachers from China than any other district in the country.

The district has 16 Chinese foreign-language classes, four elementary school immersion programs and classes at four junior high schools and all eight high schools.

Ten of the 16 Chinese teachers the district employs are guest teachers from China.

The district didn’t set out to become a center for Chinese learning 15 years ago when it began teaching the language at Kaysville Junior High, but the program grew quickly because of the tremendous response from parents.

Yesterday:

A popular summer trip to China for Chinese language immersion students in Davis County has been cancelled by the district’s board indefinitely.

Offered to high school students, the two-week trip is paid for by parents and grants from the Confucius Institute, but the school board ruled during the summer break that the trip is in violation of district policy.

Despite strong objection from parents who addressed the board during public meetings, board members decided the trips are not safe and go against rules about how much parents can be charged for school-related travel.

Families absorb about $1,600 of the cost for the trip, district spokesperson Chris Williams said.

Students stay in dorms at Chinese universities and split their time in the classroom and out at significant cultural sites.

“They weren’t just sight-seeing excursions, they actually had homework assignments,” she said. “To take them to the location and let them see these places are real and to talk to people, he built global relationships.”

Williams said all prior trips have been violation of district policy. He couldn’t explain why district personnel had been allowed to attend as chaperones anyway.

…And when the issue came up for debate, board members opted to risk erring on the safe side. Twice in recent years, there have been close calls.

“When you have an employee who was accosted, who is being taken, police intervene to stop that from occurring, when you have a student who loses his visa and cannot leave the country…Those are huge deals,” Williams said. “This was not something that was treated lightly.”

Parents say such problems have been few and far between and could happen anywhere else students travel. They say they signed waivers and purchased travel insurance for their students.

Public records indicate parents spoke in defense of the China trips on May 7, June 4 and June 18. A group of four mothers who met with 2News said so many parents tried to persuade the board there was insufficient time allotted for public comment to allow everyone who’d come to be heard.

Hmm.  I can’t figure out for sure, but perhaps the board reviewed the involvement of taking money from the Chinese government (the Confucius Institute), and decided to  pull back.  If that is in fact the motivation, I’m not clear on why they wouldn’t openly state their concern.