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Las Vegas art shows remain off limits for students

Nebo school board stands by its decision

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SPANISH FORK — The mandate has been clearly heard: Thou shall not tease temptation in Sin City.

Nebo school board has reaffirmed its decision to ban a student trip to Las Vegas to visit exhibits of rare and valuable artwork at two hotel casinos in the glitzy gambling mecca.

At a meeting Wednesday, the board responded to the pleas for a change of heart from parents, students and teachers with a firmly worded prepared statement.

"The trip to Las Vegas was not approved because the board was uncomfortable sponsoring a trip that would visit the casino area of the Las Vegas strip where the art exhibits were being held," says the elected board's statement.

"Parents who wish to have their children visit the art exhibits in Las Vegas are encouraged to take them under their own supervision."

Kevin Burdett, a psychologist for Provo School District, accused the board of "sketching reasoning."

"This is anti-education — and pro-paranoia," he said.

Burdett's wife, Beverly, is the Springville High School Russian language and history teacher who has been trying to arrange the 50-student trip to see the art in Las Vegas since September.

The board said a student trip to San Diego museums has been approved. But any plans to stop in Las Vegas while en route to California must be nixed, said board members.

Burdett says it doesn't make sense to pass up an opportunity to see the rare and valuable art collections being shown at the Bellagio and the Venetian. Thousands of school children have visited the exhibits, according to the hotels.

The Bellagio's fine art museum features the work of 19th century goldsmith Carl Faberge, who crafted the intricate, bejeweled Easter eggs for the Russian royal families. Some of the artifacts, in fact, have never been seen outside of Russia.

At the Venetian, visitors can see the exhibit "Art Through the Ages: Masterpieces of Painting from Titian to Picasso."

Beverly Burdett, who took students to Las Vegas five years ago to see an art exhibit at a casino, said the board wouldn't budge even though the students won't stay overnight, there are more chaperones than the district requires for a field trip and students won't enter the exhibits through gaming halls.

Board member Bonnie Palmer suggested taking students to the Springville Museum of Art to see original Russian artwork.

"The artwork in the Springville art museum is only one style, from one era," Burdett said. "And it was designed to promote communism. That was the only artwork that Stalin would approve."

Burdett has been told by top district officials that the group cannot stop in Las Vegas for any reason except to change bus drivers or find a rest room. Visiting the art shows would be an act of insubordination, according to the directive.

"They say they don't want the students to see the billboards," she said. "Well, we have some billboards like that in Salt Lake City."

Contributing: Jeffrey P. Haney

E-mail: rodger@desnews.com