Giant U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin welcomes school classes and other youth groups to tour its sprawling west Fort Worth plant to see big warplanes being made.
There are some catches, as an Aledo fifth-grade teacher recently found: In addition to being at least 10, anyone touring the plant must be a U.S. citizen.
The Defense Department has imposed tighter security on defense plants, including citizenship checks of even preadolescent kids.
The issue came to light recently when a fifth-grade teacher at Coder Elementary School in Aledo asked about a taking a field trip to Lockheed. On learning of the citizenship requirement and finding that two of the students in the class are not citizens, Coder Principal Amy Sadler nixed the field trip.
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Sadler, contacted by a reporter, declined to discuss the matter. Aledo School Superintendent Dan Manning, after conferring with Sadler, said that a field trip had been discussed but that he did not know why it was canceled.
"We were looking into doing it," Manning said. "This thing was canceled before they ever finished planning it."
Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout said Monday that he was not aware of any specific field trip plans involving the Aledo school, but the company's security policies meet Defense Department policies.
"We're proud of the work we do at our facility, and we allow employees to host family members or other associates on tours of unclassified areas for informational or educational purposes," Stout said.
"In general, all visitors hosted by an employee must be over the age of 10 and must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. If the visit were hosted by the company as part of our community relations program, all students who were not U.S. citizens would be required to present the proper documentation, such as a passport, to validate their identity and the country of which they were claiming citizenship."
In the past, Lockheed had to notify military or defense officials when noncitizens visited the plant. The rules were tightened in recent years by mandate of the F-35 Joint Program Office.
Texas schools are not prohibited from asking about a student's citizenship but most do not because they are required by law to provide education to any children living in a school's boundaries regardless of whether they are citizens, said Suzanne Marchman, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.
"As long as [students live] in the school district, they can't be denied enrollment so there's no reason to ask if they're a citizen or legal resident," Marchman said.
In the past month, five other school groups have visited Lockheed, Stout said. He declined to identify the groups, so the Star-Telegram could not determine how they handled the citizenship question.
Lockheed, in its effort to try and interest young people in career areas such as science, technology, engineering and math, has a program called Engineers in the Classroom in which employee volunteers go to schools to talk about what they do and provide information suitable for the specific grade.
The program has reached more than 14,000 students in Fort Worth and surrounding school districts this year, Stout said.
"We especially focus on encouraging young women and minority students to consider engineering as a career," working with Lockheed employees and professional groups.