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Class Trips to Cuba? New York Has Some ‘Splainin To Do’

Posted on July 21 2010 7:00 pm
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Teacher Nathan Turner loved Castro so much that he just had to see the dictator one more time before he died (Castro, not Turner). Well, he was teaching at the right school. At Beacon High on New York’s upper west side spring breaks weren’t exactly spent in Ft. Lauderdale. They went about 250 miles further south to Cuba. It gets better.

On July 20, 2010 the New York Office of Special Investigation(SCI) released the findings of its 3-year probe into the 2007 Cuban trip engineered by Turner. The you-know-what hit the fan in 2007 because some of the students were detained by Cuban officials trying to get back to the U.S. and a reporter started digging.

It seems that Beacon sponsored many trips to the island beginning in 2000, then 2001, 2003 and 2005 – the year that Governor David Paterson’s own stepdaughter signed up for the excursion. Speaking of Paterson, when Principal Ruth Lacey told Turner that she could not approve the trip in 2007, the state official kindly called to encourage her to change her mind.

Well, I guess Paterson, the New York Department of Education and the school administrators didn’t know that they were all violating federal restriction laws regarding traveling to Cuba. Only college-age students or older are allowed to go for educational purposes. However, they did know enough to keep the DOE from funding any part of the learning experience.

Enter the organization-Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizing and one of their own offshoots,  Pastors For Peace. Seems they’ve been a part of this from the beginning and they completely footed the bill in 2007.

Nathan Turner, who resigned in 2008,  had pictures of Castro and Che all over his classroom. When he was begging his boss to let the students go to Cuba he stated

You know, Ms. Lacey, I’m a Communist.

That’s when he told her that Castro would die soon and he needed to meet him.

Although he declined requests for interviews from the New York Times and other media they did find Turner working with at-risk youth in New Orleans. He’s teaching them about “food-justice” and urban farming.

Oh, and the educational trip? A couple of the students that went in 2007  interviewed a 15-year old prostitute and a homeless man on the streets of Havana and found that fascinating.

What’s really fascinating is that parents signed off, principals said ‘okay’ to breaking the law and then Lieutenant Governor Paterson urged Beacon High not to cancel the trip.

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