Wednesday, July 21, 2010

High School teacher, who led kids on field trip to Cuba, wanted to see Fidel Castro one more time

High School teacher, who led kids on field trip to Cuba, wanted to see
Fidel Castro one more time
BY Meredith Kolodner

The Upper West Side high school teacher who took students on an
unauthorized trip to Cuba three years ago wanted to "see Castro one more
time before he died," according to a new report.

The office of the commissioner of investigation for city schools
concluded that Beacon School history teacher Nathan Turner should remain
ineligible to work in the public schools because he placed the students
at risk.

"He put these students in some jeopardy of suffering either civil or
criminal penalties," said Special Investigation Commissioner Richard Condon.

Educational trips to Cuba are allowed for college and graduates
students, but restrictions apply for all other visitors. And some of the
students who made the spring 2007 trip were stopped in the Bahamas by
U.S. Customs Bureau agents upon their return.

Principal Ruth Lacey told investigators that while pressing his case to
make the trip to Cuba, Turner said, "You know, Ms. Lacey, I'm a Communist."

Turner declined to be interviewed for the investigation. He resigned
from Beacon in 2008 and would not comment yesterday on the investigation.

Beacon students had traveled to Cuba several times since 2000, but in
2007, Lacey was concerned that Castro's bad health might lead to
"instability or unrest in Cuba."

She contacted Education Department officials, who advised her not to
allow the trip.

The report makes clear that Lacey tried to prevent the trip and that all
of the parents of the students who went to Cuba were aware that the
school did not sponsor the trip.

"If he were not a teacher he would not have had access to those
students," Condon said, "and we don't think he should have made the trip."

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