Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rev. Dr. Lucius Walker Subpoenaed in New York Investigation Surrounding High School Students' Trip to Cuba

The New York Daily News

Judge orders rev to fess up on Beacon School's Cuba trip

Wednesday, January 23rd 2008, 4:00 AM

The religious leader who helped organize a Manhattan school's controversial trip to Cuba must speak to investigators, a judge has ruled.

The Rev. Lucius Walker was ordered to comply with a subpoena regarding the Beacon School's spring break trip to Cuba with his group, the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization.

Schools investigator Richard Condon is probing the role of the school and a teacher in the planning of the 10-day trip, which appears to have violated travel restrictions.

Walker has repeatedly refused to speak with investigators about the April trip. His attorney, Palyn Hung of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said Tuesday that Walker hadn't decided whether to appeal.

Some educational trips to Cuba, such as those for college students, are allowed, but other travelers are subject to warning letters or fines. School officials have insisted they weren't aware of the trip.

Judge says NYC can investigate students' Cuba trips

1/22/2008, 7:22 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The city's Department of Education is allowed to investigate whether field trips to Cuba by high school students and the department's employees violated any local laws, a state judge has ruled.

State Supreme Court Justice Judith Gische issued the ruling and refused to quash subpoenas that education investigators had served on a nonprofit group that may have organized a trip to Cuba during spring break in April 2007. The ruling was made public Tuesday.

Richard J. Condon, the Education Department's commissioner of investigation, issued the subpoenas after he learned that a teacher at the Beacon School on the Upper West Side had escorted students to the Caribbean island.

Condon said he wanted to learn whether school employees engaged in misconduct by planning, taking part in and approving the trip. City law gives Condon's office subpoena authority.

The group that reportedly organized the Cuba trip, the Inter-Religious Foundation for Community Organization Inc., tried to have the subpoenas quashed. The foundation said the investigation was outside the city's authority because only the federal government can regulate overseas travel.

Gische found that the possible "misconduct" Condon wanted to look into included whether education employees had led public high school children to disobey federal laws, and said this was permissible.

The U.S. government permits some journalists, college and post-gradute students, and religious foundations to apply for permission to travel to Cuba. High school students may not apply for such permission.

The judge also said the foundation failed to show that its rights would be violated by having to produce records about trips to Cuba by Beacon School students and teachers at specific times.

Palyn Hung, New York Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued for the foundation, said Tuesday her clients have not decided whether to appeal.

Hung said she believed that in Gische's decision, "important constitutional issues were not as fully appreciated as we would have liked."

Ann E. Ryan, lawyer in Condon's office who represented the Education Department, declined to comment on the case.

The foundation's Web site says its Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba has delivered humanitarian aid and arranged visits to the island several times without federal government approval. An anonymous quote on the site says: "If there is a law against loving our neighbor, I want to break it."

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