Bereaved parents push bills aimed at improving safety for students abroad

Taking Action

(WRIC) — Parents have warned 8News students are disappearing and dying while studying abroad. Now there’s a new effort to better educate parents and students about potential risks. A study abroad can certainly be a cultural, educational and socially rewarding experience most of the time.

However, 8News first shared heartbreaking stories from several mothers, including one from Virginia last year, who lost their children overseas. In talking with the parents 8News uncovered sometimes these study abroad programs have little oversight, zero connection to the college, and we found there’s no agency tracking deaths, rapes or accidents.

A Virginia Beach mom told us the story of her son on a medical educational trip in Peru that she thought was run by Old Dominion University. Her son died after collapsing during a hike, his mom later learned the program had no medical supplies. 

Another mother, Ros Thackurdeen, told 8News her son Ravi drown on a beach known to locals for drownings. It was an outing that was not on the original itinerary. 

Those same parents have worked with lawmakers to introduce two bipartisan bills to increase the information available to parents and students before they go abroad. A bill in the House would require colleges to issue biennial safety reports on their programs. A bill in the Senate would mandate the U.S. Department of State to keep data on deaths of U.S. students studying abroad.

Thackurdeen has been pushing for the legislation since 8News first spoke with her.  At the time she told 8News, “It is a transparency safety bill.” Elizabeth Brenner, who also lost a son on a study abroad trip has been working with Thackurdeen. She told 8News last year, “We believe many of these deaths are preventable.”

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