- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — A spring break trip to Cuba taken by students and a teacher from a New York City public high school has raised concerns about whether the group violated U.S. travel restrictions to the communist dictatorship.

“We are investigating,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told reporters yesterday.

A city Department of Education spokesman said this month’s trip to Cuba was not officially sanctioned by the Beacon School, although the school’s Web site featured a call for applications and a list of selected students, as well as details of previous sponsored trips to the island.

“We were told that it violated State Department travel restrictions,” department spokesman David Cantor said.

Molly Millerwise, spokeswoman for the U.S. Treasury Department, declined to comment on the case.

Treasury hands out travel licenses for Cuba trips, and Ms. Millerwise said permission is granted to some groups, including for those seeking to engage in religious activity or humanitarian aid. Educational licenses also are granted, but not at the high school level, she said.

People who violate sanctions can face penalties ranging from warnings to a $65,000 fine.

Mr. Cantor said the Education Department had asked a special investigator to see whether any school regulations were violated on this trip or previous ones. However, it’s not clear what the department could do if the teacher, Nate Turner, and the students acted independently, he said.

In 2004 and 2005, according to the school Web site, students had to take a class if they wanted to go on a trip to Cuba. In mid-October, Mr. Turner posted a release on the school’s Web site advertising that applications for this year’s trip were available. An essay was one of the requirements. It was not clear how many students actually went on the trip, though a school Web site posting listed about 30 students who had been selected for it.

Mr. Turner did not respond to an e-mail request seeking comment yesterday. Neither did school principal Ruth Lacey, though she told the New York Post that the school had denied approval for the trip but that Mr. Turner went ahead and arranged it.

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