Walk Out for Climate Change
On Friday, September 20, 2019, students have the opportunity to cut class and make their voices heard at the Manhattan climate change rally at Battery Park.
For the first time ever, the NYC Department of Education has given 1.1 million NYC school students permission to leave school early and join the strike. Students are leaving Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) at 12:00, marching to Battery Park, and will be participating in the rally from 3:30pm-5:00pm where young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg will be speaking.
Climate change is a defining issue of this generation. Maintaining the safety of the planet continues to be a controversial topic as many lawmakers and people in power refuse to acknowledge it. As the effects of climate change continue to worsen, a growing number of young people have expressed their thoughts and advocacy through social media platforms, rallies, and strikes.
“I think it’s great. I think it’s really important for students to not only be aware, but to be involved and have their voices heard,” Mr. Frankel, FSSA principal said.
Mr. Frankel said he strongly supports student activism, but also supports kids staying in school where they can learn about global warming and economic issues.
“The safety of our students and the organization of running the school is first and foremost. Students have gotten lost on trains to marches before, and when they get there, there will be hundreds of thousands of people there,” he added.
He encourages that students should be picked up by a parent and go to the rally with them as an extra safety precaution. All students leaving must have parent permission and must sign on their way out. This will limit students leaving school just to skip classes.
According to FSSA school administration, approximately 200 students had parental consent to join the march.
Mr. Frankel stressed that walking out of school should only be for students who are truly passionate about the cause and who feel that it is a responsibility to be involved.
He brought up the question, “Do you have to miss school in order to participate? “I think students who feel like it’s important to stay in school can still leave at 3:00pm and still be able to participate. Students shouldn’t feel like they have to choose between class and rehearsal or participating,” Mr. Frankel said.
He added that he didn’t understand how striking school would benefit the strike or the actual movement. However, he added that activism should not be stopped, and if one truly believes in the cause, one has to make sacrifices in order to make changes.
Mr. Frankel sent out an email with a parent permission form, and further details on the strike procedures to all students and their guardians.
Even after receiving support from Mr. Frankel and the Department of Education, some teachers remain unsatisfied with the climate strike.
“Climate change is real, first of all,” said Ms. Lightbourn, a teacher from FSSA’s science department. “But the climate strike is no good.”
Instead of leaving school early and attending the strike, she proposed that students educate themselves on climate change and use this information to actually make a difference themselves.
“We might as well put our heads together and actually do something instead of striking and cutting school -in my opinion – it’s cutting school,” she added.
Ms. Lightbourn said she supports student involvement in climate change and those who are interested in the environment, but not the notion of students cutting their classes to attend the strike itself.
Mr. Cacciola-Price from the FSSA drama department also took a similar view to that of other teachers.
“When you’re missing school you’re missing lessons about things like climate change. I don’t think it makes sense to have kids leaving school for this. I admire kids who are interested, legitimately interested, in it. I think that’s great and I encourage people to find multiple days for protesting, not just the one day where they can miss school,” he added.
Some teachers proposed that students use their art form as a means of expression and protest. Ms. Brady, another teacher from the drama department, added that in her freshman theater history class they are exploring theater as protest.
“It’s interesting to look at student protests throughout history and what student protests get media attention and what student protests don’t get media attention and why,” Ms. Brady said.
Students have a very different take on the topic. Iliana Lara, a senior art major, will be leaving school early to attend the rally.
“I think if there was to be climate change and mass extinction, a lot of people who come from a lower-income home would be affected – including my family,” she said.
Another supporter of the rally is Sophia Longmuir who is a freshman drama major. She’s going to the strike with students from her freshman drama class and noted that her friend actually made the flyers around the school. She also made posters for people to hold up at the rally.
“I feel like it is important for me to leave in the middle of school because it is important to be there from the very start. We need to show people that we are dedicated and won’t give up,” she said.
Sophia’s dad sent in the permission form as soon as they got the email, and noted that her entire family supports her going as they are also activists.
“It’s important to help in any way you can. Even if you can’t go to the strike, you can participate in many other ways,” she said. Sophia and her friends are currently working on creating an environmental club and a fundraising bake sale at FSSA.
There are plenty of other students who support change, but don’t feel like cutting class is necessary in order to cause it. Most students were in agreement that no matter the precautions, there would still be students cutting school for their own benefit, even with a sign out sheet and parental permission. There will always be kids who take advantage.
“A lot of them [students] obviously don’t understand what’s going on or are misinformed. They don’t know what the rally is for or how badly climate change can affect them. It’s disrespectful and out of ignorance,” Iliana said.
Additionally, Sophia Tolli, a senior drama major, mentioned that some students have certain responsibilities and can’t leave in the middle of a school day.
“There are other extracurricular classes like musical theater and stagecraft, where students will get in trouble for leaving. If they are really passionate, they wouldn’t let missing a couple of hours get in the way of them going, they would still go anyway,” she added.
Ultimately, the decision to cut class for climate change can only be made by the individual. With the rise of youth movements, choices like these seem to be getting more and more common.
If you are interested in other ways to help stop climate change, or learn more about the topic, here are some resources:
– by Madelyne Greenberg ’20 and Tabitha Setari ’20