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School divisions wrestling with field trips to Bodies

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Louis Riel School Division has banned field trips to see the controversial Bodies exhibit.

Three other city divisions require parental consent and proof that the exhibit ties into students' studies, while another division is leaving it to families to visit privately.

The exhibit features more than 200 specially-preserved bodies from China, which organizers say are "meticulously dissected and respectfully displayed, offer an unprecedented and wholly unique look into your amazing body."

LRSD superintendent Terry Borys said that the exhibit is expensive, and that the division does not want students who don't want to attend feel they have to go because because of peer pressure.

"The exhibit is not appropriate for all students and I do not want to put students in a position where they feel "obliged" to attend (even if they are uncomfortable doing so) just because their friends are attending," Borys said.

Borys said that parents should not feel any pressure to send their children on a field trip "because the public school system is offering the outing when they really would rather not send their children."

The division is leaving it up to families to decide if they want to see Bodies outside of school time, Borys said. "While I appreciate that some parents have expressed that they regret my decision citing that the public school system should organize this educational outing, I respectfully disagree."

One junior high and one high school in Winnipeg School Division have had field trips to the exhibit. The division is not naming the schools.

Schools must send home information to parents about the Bodies exhibit, and parents must then give written consent for their children to attend, said a division official. "The visit must be connected to learning outcomes that the children will cover at school," said the official.

"There are no Pembina Trails School Division schools going to the exhibit and there was no policy in place indicating to the schools that they cannot go," said a PTSD official.

Nevertheless, he said, "Senior administration along with school administrators and teachers discussed the exhibit and decided that if the students wanted to go to the exhibit, that they would have to go with their family."

River East Transcona S.D. says that grades 11 and 12 students are allowed to go on field trips to see the exhibit provided that the teacher has received approval from the superintendent's department and the students have parental permission, and the exhibit ties directly to the curriculum they are studying.

Biology is the most common link, said an official, who said some classes have taken field trips to the exhibit.

In St. James-Assiniboia S.D., superintendent Ron Weston said: "We have limited the participation to high schools with parental permission."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 12, 2010 A10

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