After an anti-abortion website published an article scolding two Orléans Catholic high schools for sending students to an Obama campaign event in Ohio, the field trip has been cancelled.
Students from St. Peter High School and St. Matthew Catholic High School were scheduled to attend several campaign events from Nov. 3 to 7 in the final days leading up to the 2012 U.S. election.
The field trip included lectures at Youngstown State University and a chance to observe a voter-registration event organized by the Obama campaign.
“The purpose of the trip was to engage our students in the political process,” said St. Peter principal Norma McDonald. “When all of the negative comments started to come in, it had been taken in a very different direction.”
The American website LifeSiteNews.com criticized Scott Searle, one of the teachers organizing the field trip, for his past affiliation with the Obama campaign.
The website said that an Orléans mother was concerned that a Catholic school trip would support a pro-choice presidential candidate.
After anonymous comments started piling up, McDonald was made aware of the negative attention the trip was receiving.
She said she consulted with Searle and decided the best decision would be to cancel the trip. Students were told the trip was cancelled on Nov. 1.
“It became more about a campaign platform, it became about President Obama’s ideologies,” she said. “I realized it was at a point that it had created a lot of anxiety, and I would certainly never want me students or my staff to be subjected to negativity and criticism.”
The website article received many comments from both anonymous posters condemning the trip, and St. Peter students voicing their disappointment for the cancellation and support for Searle.
Students quickly took to Twitter, using the hashtag #teamsearle to comment on the issue.
Paige Hanson, a St. Peter graduate and now a first-year St. Francis Xavier University student, said that she has participated in two of Searle’s annual class trips to the United States, once to Boston and once to Washington.
Hanson, an international development student, said the trips were educational.
“Mr. Searle is a phenomenal teacher, who really is in it for the kids,” she said. “Yes, he has his views on politics, but don’t we all? Not in a million years would he ever try to brain wash kids.”
Hanson said the school shouldn’t have cancelled the trip based on a complaint from an anonymous parent to a pro-life website.
“The whole fact that Obama’s pro-abortion (stance was the reason to cancel the trip) is pretty stupid in the sense that the trip has nothing to do with that,” she said.
Students at St. Peter wore blue, the school’s colour, on Nov. 2 to show support for the #teamsearle movement.
On Twitter, they unanimously voiced support for the teacher.
“The best way to learn is to visualize and see it in action!!! #teamSearle,” commented Twitter user @JoeyMartello.
“I am SO enraged that narrow minded ignorance has interfered in the pursuit of knowledge and life experiences. #teamSearle,” tweeted user @KTPisoutthere.
McDonald said that students were clearly disappointed, but had understood the explanation.
“To cancel something so close to the date is difficult, but it’s been incredible that they do support my decision,” McDonald said. “On the one hand, they’re disappointed where this ended up, but on the other hand, they are saying they do understand why.”
“I believe the mother who voiced her opinion ruined an innocent and informational trip for the many excited students,” said Hanson.