“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.” — Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa.
For parents, the safety and well-being of their children is of the utmost importance. Travelling abroad is an amazing and eye opening experience for students to learn about other cultures, traditions, and themselves. It is crucial these students have the necessary tools and resources to keep them safe while they are abroad. Policy has not kept pace with globalization. No department of the United States has any jurisdiction to stop the victimization of students abroad.
In honor of their 16 year old son, Tyler Hill, and many other students who have lost their lives due to preventable deaths while studying abroad, Sheryl and Allen Hill created ClearCause Foundation. The non-profit seeks to provide tools and resources to protect students, and create state and federal rules for study abroad programs and student related travel.
Since 2010, ClearCause’s mission has been to “Protect Our Students Abroad.” Thanks to tireless hours of many volunteers, supporters and legislators the Tyler Hill’s K-12 Student Abroad Sunshine Law and Thomas Plotkin’s Higher Education Student Abroad Sunshine Law were passed in the state of Minnesota. Elizabeth Brenner is the mother of Thomas Plotkin. Thomas is a college student whose life fell away on a National Outdoor Leadership program in India. His body was never found.
Thomas and Tyler’s laws are the first mandated student abroad transparency laws in the world for K-12 to Higher education programs. Minnesota State Senator Terri Bonoff and Minnesota State Representative Yvonne Selcer authored the bills.
Duty of care and duty to inform parents and students of risks to their health and safety on programs abroad are practically nonexistent. No one knows how many have perished. We have records of hundreds.
Ros Thackurdeen’s son Ravi is another casualty. Ravi Thackurdeen, died in Spring 2012 while he was spending a semester in Costa Rica. With a full life ahead of him, Ravi was a passionate young man, but all that vanished when his life abruptly ended.
Ros, a Mom on a Mission, joined ClearCause in support of the Ravi’s Safe Students Abroad Act, Federal House Record 5484. Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-D) introduced the bill in 2014. The bill was co-sponsored by Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen. Ravi’s federal law would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 and require higher education institutions and third party programs to report all deaths, illnesses, injuries and sexual assaults while students are studying abroad. New York Channel 4’s I-Team did a story, “Parents demand transparency!’ Ravi’s law would be the first national law of its kind. Ravi’s law did not move forward in 2014, however it is being re-introduced in the near future by Congressman Maloney.
Noelle Damon whose daughter Zoe Damon died while she too was studying abroad in Costa Rica gave testimony to the press regarding how much transparency is needed. It never crossed her mind that her daughter was traveling on a small program with shoestring budget. She was not informed of the dangers. Zoe’s death was unexpected and preventable, but because measures were not put in place, Misleading and omissions of information are endangering our students.
Richelle Dabney’s son Damion Wilkins perished in Peru on another shoestring program with Dr. Rolling. Dr. Rolling continues to solicit American students to Peru with no disclosure on deaths, illness and injury. It is very difficult to hold Dr. Rolling accountable because outside of pitching his program to universities, he doesn’t have any ties in the United States, making it a more difficult legal battle. “Ms. Dabney is working with state Sen. Kenny Alexander, a Norfolk Democrat, to propose a similar state bill to the next General Assembly to provide more regulation of travel abroad study programs pitched in Virginia.” Reports Elizabeth Simpson in Pilot Online.
Safety means the world to our students abroad. They mean the world to us. Please join in the conversation. Make change happen. Please, send an email to your policy maker on ClearCause’s website. It only takes a minute to protect our students abroad.