Field trip fallout
The Six Flags amusement park chain has been struggling financially in recent years, so it's no wonder that its Maryland attraction, Six Flags America in Largo, would want to keep the business of Baltimore city school kids.
The city schools administrator overseeing middle schools, Marilyn Perez, issued a directive recently that all field trips must be education-related. All of the city's traditional middle schools are classified as failing academically, so Perez said she wants kids engaged in learning until the last bell rings.
As I reported in May, Dunbar Middle School had to cancel three eighth-grade trips, including one to Six Flags, as a result of Perez's directive. Officials refunded the money that kids and parents had already paid to attend. The students, who had been looking forward to the trips for months, were crushed.
Terry Prather, the general manager of Six Flags America, and an attorney for the park spoke during the public comment portion of Tuesday's school board meeting. They asked for an opportunity to participate in discussions over any new field trip policies. Prather said he's heard from a number of city teachers who used to take their students to the park each spring but are no longer allowed to.
"A lot of learning can occur at an amusement park," Prather said. He talked about the educational opportunities that come with learning about the physics of the rides, and about the safety of his park, which he said is staffed with certified medical technicians.
All that may be true. But what about the value of letting kids who lead incredibly difficult lives, and who rarely have the opportunity to leave their violence-ridden neighborhoods, to simply have fun for a day?