Just a day before the Global Climate Strike on Friday, September 20th, it surfaced on social media that the San Francisco United School District (SFUSD) rescinded their support for students participating in the strike. This angered many parents and student protesters who were marked absent or whose field trips to the strike were canceled.
NBC reports that several school teachers had organized field trips after receiving an email from their district superintendent stating the teachers would receive support with buses, chaperones, and lunch for the students to attend the strike. Soon afterward, however, the superintendent sent out a second message stating that “staff members are not authorized to take students on a field trip to a public strike, rally or demonstration during the school day.”
To make up for taking away their support, many schools encouraged teachers to bring the strike, environmentalism, and political activism into their classrooms so students could learn the same lessons without missing school or compromising their safety.
“When [activists] plan [the strike] on a school day, it really puts us in a quandary.”
Many students and parents were still unsatisfied with the school’s rescinded support. One activist started a petition on change.org which asked the schools to renew their support for the rally, citing undue suppression of student voices. Furthermore, students and parents expressed concern that rescinding support would transform the rally into a rich-kid’s strike because parents with lower incomes often can’t afford to take a day off work to keep their child safe at the strike. This situation prevented some students from participating in the strike.
In response to backlash from San Francisco activists, superintendent of the SFUSD Orinda district, Carolyn Seaton, cited safety and funding as the two biggest obstacles to their support for the rally. Keeping students safe is a priority and the district believed they could not do that at the strike. Additionally, every excused student absence reduces school funding by $46 per day which was too significant to ignore for the schools. Seaton said to the San Francisco Chronicle that although the schools care about climate change, “When [activists] plan [the strike] on a school day, it really puts us in a quandary.”
The climate strike was considered a success with youth of all ages and parts of the district coming to participate. However, in response to SFUSD’s lack of support, student activists are calling the district to re-evaluate their policies surrounding political involvement.