By DAVID ANDREATTA
New York Post
April 16, 2007 – The Scrooge Report Post
A group of Manhattan public high-school students and a history teacher with a soft spot for Cuba flouted federal travel restrictions by taking a spring-break field trip to the communist nation – and now face up to $65,000 apiece in fines, The Post has learned.
The lesson in socializing and socialism was given to about a dozen students from the selective Beacon School on the Upper West Side, which for years has organized extravagant overseas trips with complementary semester-long classes.
Some past destinations include France, Spain, South Africa, Venezuela, Mexico and, according to the school Web site, Cuba in 2004 and 2005.
The principal, Ruth Lacey, insisted she did not approve the April 1-10 jaunt, in which students and teachers said the group was briefly detained on their return by American customs officials in The Bahamas and now faces fines.
In a telephone interview, Lacey initially claimed to have no knowledge of the trip but later recalled having denied approval for it. She said the teacher, Nathan Turner, then took it upon himself to arrange the excursion.
Turner, 35, a popular teacher whose classroom walls, students said, are adorned with posters of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, declined to comment.
“I don’t know anything about the trip because it wasn’t school-sponsored. I only care about the trips that go through the school,” Lacey said. “This, to me, would be an outrage if it happened.”
But the trip was advertised on the school’s Web site in the fall. And a list of 30 students selected in November to take the journey and to attend preparation classes for it could be found on its Web site last week.
It was not clear how many students actually went, though sources said it was about a dozen.
Asked whether the previous trips to Cuba had been approved, Lacey said they had, explaining, “At the time, I think the climate in the country was different.”