Thousands of young people around the world, including many in the Bay Area, will go on strike Friday, leaving school and marching to highlight the dangers of climate change.
One local fifth grade class had posters and T-shirts ready, planning to make it a learning experience. Instead, the district is offering a different lesson that has students and teachers upset.
Students in Jennifer Partika’s fifth grade class at Argonne Elementary School in San Francisco were ready to protest too after Partika said the school district’s Sustainability Office sent out an email letting teachers know they’d get help with buses, chaperones and even lunch so students could participate in the local march at the federal building.
"Having the opportunity to guide them in their mission of speaking up was exciting to me," Partika said.
But plans quickly changed when Partika said the district superintendent sent out a different email saying "staff members are not authorized to take students on a field trip to a public march, rally or demonstration during the school day," citing safety concerns.
The email added that "students may choose to miss school and/or leave school. and staff must record the absence as unexcused in the attendance system."
Parents like Terrel Hutton say they’re encouraged that the school district does support students’ rights to protest, but she’d like to see the educators take a bigger role in the issue of climate change.
"The district had expressed huge support for this in an organized way and that suddenly seemed like it was being pulled back," Hutton said.
She plans to take her children to Friday’s march in San Francisco, as do other parents.
"I’m still going to go because I do want to express myself and say what I believe in," Argonne fifth grader Noah Shire said.
Classmate Kokobe Foust added: "I think it’s really important for kids to have their voice in this."
Partika said most of her students, though, won’t be able to go.
"The reality is that parents can take their students down to this march on Friday on their own, but those are parents who can afford to take a day off of work," she said.
The rest of Partika’s students will still be able to rally outside, in front of the school building.
The day of protest Friday is happening in more than 100 countries around the globe.