Students across Canada are expected to participate in climate demonstrations beginning Sept. 20, and some school boards are moving to allow — even encourage — them to miss class for the cause.
Greater Victoria School Board chairwoman Jordan Watters said it’s good for students to be involved in issues.
“Certainly, our approach in the past has always been we like to support our students being active in the community and whatever they’re passionate about.”
Students’ participation in events such as climate rallies has been allowed, but they are asked to have their parents sign an excused absence from school, Watters said. “Nobody’s going to be penalized.”
A series of local climate-related events beginning Friday with a “die-in” at the legislature and the occupation of the intersection of Government and Belleville streets is set to culminate Sept. 27 with the Global Climate Strike at the legislature.
It includes a call for students to leave school and others to leave their workplaces to take part.
Watters, who will be speaking at a Monday climate rally sponsored by parents and the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, said the idea is to strike a balance between students acting on their beliefs and recognizing the importance of class time.
The Sooke School Board also tries to strike a balance, said chairman Ravi Parmar.
“We’ve had one request come in from an individual who asked if the board would consider closing school for the day, but we’re not doing that,” he said. “If there’s any student who wants to participate in any event like the climate strike, they absolutely can. They’ll just be missing school.”
Family involvement is promoted.
“Obviously, in those situations we certainly encourage students to have those conversations with their parents,” Parmar said.
Teachers can also choose to be at various events, he said.
“When it comes to teachers who want to participate in that, as well, they would be organizing that just like any other field trip.”
In the Saanich School District, superintendent Dave Eberwein said all field trips are reviewed individually for appropriateness and safety.
Saanich School Board vice-chairwoman Elsie McMurphy said that when it comes to climate issues, “it’s great to see kids taking a hold of their future, expressing an interest in the world around them.”
“I know that there’s many things to be learned outside of school as well as in.”
Global Climate Strikes are being held across Canada and are timed to coincide with the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York next week.
The movement is partly inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has staged weekly demonstrations over the past year under the hashtag #FridaysForFuture, calling on world leaders to step up efforts against climate change.
The website fridaysforfuture.org lists more than 100 climate strikes planned in Canada, including events in all 10 provinces and two territories. Thunberg announced on Facebook last week she will be in Montreal for a march Sept. 27.
The University of British Columbia, the Toronto District School Board and Montreal’s Dawson College are also among the institutions taking measures to support students who plan to walk out of class as part of a global call to action.
The Commission Scolaire de Montreal, Quebec’s largest school board, has cancelled classes on Sept. 27, calling it an “exceptional gesture” stemming from its desire to support awareness of the climate emergency.
The Toronto District School Board said it has asked its schools to avoid scheduling tests and other assignments on Sept. 27, to ensure students aren’t penalized academically for participating in a rally outside the Ontario legislature. However, the board noted students under 18 must obtain parental permission to skip class.
UBC said students who plan on taking part in the walkout should discuss possible accommodations with their instructors. Similarly, any faculty members wishing to cancel classes in support of the climate action should inform students in advance, the university said in a statement.
“This strike is a student-led initiative and we acknowledge that many of our students and community members care deeply about this issue. It is inspiring to see so many students take part in shaping their future and use the power of the collective voice to raise awareness of climate change and the need for immediate action.”
— With files from the Associated Press
Events planned over the next week
Friday, Sept. 20
Organized by Our Earth Our Future
Time: Noon to 1 p.m. (school walkouts at 11 a.m.)
Location: B.C. legislature
Organized by Extinction Rebellion
Time: 2 to 10 p.m.
Location: Occupation of intersection at Government and Belleville streets
Monday, Sept. 23
Organized by the Greater Victoria Teachers Association, Parents 4 Climate, and Dogwood B.C.
Time: 1:30 to 3 p.m.
Location: B.C. legislature
Tuesday, Sept. 24
Organized by Friends of Carmanah Walbran
Time: 7:30 to 10 a.m.
Location: Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, 525 Superior Street, Victoria
Wednesday, Sept. 25
Organized by Divest UVic
Time: Noon to 4 p.m.
Location: UVic Student Union Building (SUB)
Thursday, Sept. 26
Organized by Rise and Resist
Time: Noon to 1:30 p.m.
Location: Intersection of Fort and Douglas
Friday, Sept. 27
Organized by Divest UVic, Our Time, Our Earth Our Future, and others
Time: 11 a.m.
Location: Students from all around the region will be gathering at the legislature as part of the Global Climate Strike.
Organizers are calling on people to walk out of theirschool or workplace for the afternoon and join them for a march and street party downtown.
Location: B.C. legislature and streets around Victoria