Climate Strike: SPS Says No Excused Absences if Students Walk Out

Today on KUOW's The Record, Superintendent Juneau was asked about SPS students who might want to join the Friday walkout for climate change.  She was totally supportive of young activists and noted many in Seattle Schools.

But then she mentioned the law and teaching and learning and science classes and well, it's a no to being excused to go to the rally.

The only way a student can go with an excused absence is if a parent/guardian comes and takes the student. No note will do.

I put this up on Twitter and many people were not happy with her stance.
Do it anyway.

Yeah, I’ll go get the kid.

Not with Amplify they won’t.

Wow! Well, the only time I got in trouble in school was when I staged a walk-out against the war in Iraq. I got quoted in the local paper and got called into the principal’s office on Monday AM. Got detention and when I got home, my hippie uncle gave me a hi 5! So Hi 5 students! 
Oh hi@SeaPubSchools, did you see@GovInslee’s release? He seems pretty enthusiastic about kids participating.
I note that Governor Inslee is all in as are NYC schools.

Gov. Inslee's statement reads as follows:
"I encourage educators to embrace Friday's Global Climate Strike as part of a strong civic education for young people. The youth of today will inherit the planet of tomorrow. The cataclysmic impact of climate change will impact them more than any generation before them.

"If I had the authority to excuse students from school to participate in this Global Climate Strike, I would grant it. But I don't. However, I support their engagement and activism on this crucial issue. Their future is the one truly at stake. Moments like this in our environmental history will define us and will reverberate for generations. I commend the youth in our state and across the county standing up for their future." 
The Governor will be in Spokane on Friday to join local youth lead as they lead the Spokane Climate Strike.

Via NBC News:

NYC schools to let 1.1 million students cut class for climate strike.

"We applaud our students when they raise their voices in a safe and respectful manner on issues that matter to them," the city's Department of Education said in a statement.


Anonymous said…
Tone deaf of Juneau. Such a missed opportunity.

Anonymous said…
Meanwhile, Madison students are spending the day at the Puyallup fair. If this counts toward the annual instructional hours, the climate strike certainly should.

Madison Parent
Unknown said…
Hi Melissa and All,

Is it civil disobedience if it's encouraged by the civil powers that be?

Anonymous said…
SP, right on!

Do it anyway. Your disobedience is your platform. One “unexcused absence” is a pretty pathetic punishment anyway. On balance, it’s nothing compared to the fate of the world.

Do It
Anonymous said…
They should use the unexcused absence in their college admission personal statement regarding the futility of asking the powers that be to allow you to exercise your rights.

Theo Moriarty
Anonymous said…
RCW provides that students can have absences excused for a “day of conscience,” which could include activism. Must be approved by a parent. Juneau is wrong. How do we get this info out there?

Save Us
Birmingham Jail. said…
Imagine if the civil rights protesters asked for permission.

Part of what makes a protest work is the willingness of those protesting to accept the punishment for their actions. If they are only willing to “protest” if it is free, than what’s the point? Courage of your convictions?

Anonymous said…
I will simply point out that the Seahawks Super Bowl parade was declared an excused absence (under Banda). I had 3 students in one of my classes that day (out of a usual 30). -TeacherMom
Anonymous said…
Most students would probably learn more--both about science, AND about being responsible members of society--by participating in the rally and march rather than sitting in school that day.

Isn't part of SPS's strategic plan to help students graduate "prepared for community"?

I hope most teachers are more accommodating than Juneau, and will allow students to make up anything important that may have been covered that day. I suspect that many will work around it, and that students who do show up will find themselves doing a lot of busy work instead.

Wayste O'Tyme

Anonymous said…
Re: Teacher Mom saying Banda excused students for the Seahawks parade. That is a lie. Here is an excerpt from his statement at the time:
"We have received questions about the parade on Wednesday, which starts at 11 a.m. Seattle Public Schools will not close or dismiss school early because of the parade. Parents who wish to take their students out of school can, but per state regulation, it will be treated as an unexcused absence. While we support the team, academics must come first and it’s important not to lose a day in the classroom."

As others have mentioned, its not really a "walkout" or a "strike" if it's excused. If students don't have the conviction of conscience to accept an unexcused absence, they really aren't committed to the cause and shouldn't participate. For all our sakes, I hope they do have skin in the game and that they are going to bring the change us previous generations failed to.

Anonymous said…
In 1992 a strike/protest was held at Garfield H.S to protest the Iraq war. The Principal learned of the planned protest/strike and warned the students "if you strike/protest and or leave the building for any length of time, you will be suspended." The students did strike and left the building. The Principal rang the fire alarm to evacuate the building at the exact time the strike/protest was held. The building was evacuated and the students participated in the strike/protest on the playing field as planned. They re entered the building when the strike/protest was over. No one was suspended.
Carol Simmons said…
I posted the above comment. I was Assistant Principal at Garfield at the time.

Do members of the School Board have opinions?
Save Us, I'll tweet that out.

Carol, I only heard President Harris - at a candidate forum - say that the Board and administration were "wrestling" with the issue. The final word is the Superintendent's.
Anonymous said…
@ Carol Simmons, thanks for sharing that. I love it.

NESeattleMom said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
QA Dad (and others), please don't say someone is lying. Please give someone the benefit of the doubt and say, "I believe you are mistaken or forgetting the facts." Don't ramp people up by saying, "That is a lie."

Anonymous said…
The fake fire alarm really isn't cute from a safety perspective.

Only inSeattle
Anonymous said…
Kids should be taught that it often will cost them to take a stand for something they believe in.

Anonymous said…
What exactly will walking out accomplish? They could do more by not using the school buses or not using any electricity. I think the internet kids would be shocked to learn that all things internet use more energy than all the cars in the USA. Are they teaching that?

Outsider said…
In defense of the Supt, granting excused absences for political protest could open a can of worms. A lot of different students are passionate about a lot of different causes (some of which might not be so popular in Seattle). Excuse the climate strike, and it would be about 30 seconds before SPS was accused of playing political favorites. How about a "pro-life" or 2nd amendment march? Not to mention a zillion other causes which are some shade of PC. Then come the lawsuits when SPS excuses only the local favorites.

Holding the line might not be a bad decision.
Carol Simmons said…
Yes, it may seem that from a safety perspective using a practice fire alarm drill was not safe. However, back in the day there were many practice fire alarm drills and the students responded accordingly. There were also some practice bomb threat drills and practice gang related drills and practice earthquake drills some to evacuate the building and others to remain in place. When I was in grade school though before many of you were born we had practice air raid drills and hid under our desks. They are a necessary evil. This Principal did not want to go against a District decision that he considered unfair of having to suspend students. And he was very,very by the book in following district guidelines, but like the Captain in NE Seattle Mom's post he was very creative,supportive of the student's cause, non punitive and the "Captain" who was extremely respected by the students and staff.
Anonymous said…
If the students can get two days' worth of excused absences for a parent-approved "reason of faith or conscience," I agree that it might not be a bad idea for the Superintendent to hold the line. However, it would be great if she had also shared with students and families that they are legally entitled to be excused to participate in events such as this if they feel it an act of faith or conscience. Not only will they likely learn about climate change science and how to be an engaged citizen, they can also learn a little about Washington state law and how to fight for their individual rights (e.g., helping their parent/guardian write a letter to the principal that references state law and frames their absence in accord with law). Good skills all around.

I agree that kids should be fought that it will often cost them to fight for something in which they believe, but I also believe that in cases where it does not NEED to cost them, they should be taught to fight to exercise their rights. There will be plenty of people trying to take their rights away in one form or another, and they need to know how to push back--especially when the law is on their side. Helping them understand their right to protest is more important than making sure they feel the pain of so doing.

1st Amendment said…
Some parents are afraid that an unexcused absence will look bad on college applications. Maybe some colleges would support students with convictions.

Teach your children to stand-up and have courage for their convictions.
Anonymous said…
I don't know if colleges really care that much about an unexcused absence here or there (or at all, if they don't impact your grades/scores), but the only way they'd even know your unexcused absence was due to the courage of one's convictions was if the student wrote about that in their essay or other responses. It would be pretty funny if a bunch of schools started getting essays from students across the country trying to explain away their unexcused absence to attend a climate strike, don't you think? It might also come across as trying to make excuses, which doesn't seem all that courageous...

Fighting your current school administration to be granted your rightful "excused" absence in order to go stand up for your convictions arguably requires more courage than trying to explain away an unexcused absence anyway. It's more personal, and has more potential to be uncomfortable.


Anonymous said…
Kids will do anything to get out of class. This activism needs to stop. They can do want they want every weekend.

BooHa, not use buses or electricity? And what's your source that the internet uses more energy than the use of cars?

SOM, you made me laugh. "This activism needs to stop." Tell that to the Rainier Beach kids who advocated and agitated for the City to pay for Orca cards. And it worked.
Internet servers DO use a lot of electricity, but, electricity can be generated without the use of fossil fuels, unlike gas-powered autos. Here in Seattle, our electricity is hydroelectric, so it's a clean, renewable resource. But even still, we need to be thoughtful about how we use it and conserve it when we can. That's why City Light encourages the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs, etc.

The Climate Strike is about the need for our national government to pull its collective head out of the sand and take a stand on climate change—basically the exact opposite of what is currently happening with most environmental regulations being rolled back, etc. 45's recent move to disallow California to set its own auto emission standards is just one more example of his administrations disregard for climate science and the need to curtail the use of fossil fuels.

If I still had a child in SPS, we'd be drafting up a letter to their school so they could attend the rally on Friday—unexcused absence or not.
NESeattleMom said…
The walkout for the climate crisis is possibly an important moment in history. Kids have more power than adults in this. To me, it is more important than missing school to ride a bus to Tacoma to see basketball playoffs. It reminds me of when UW students walked on the freeway (and other students across the country) to protest the Vietnam war, and people started to listen. If most kids walk out, then my kid won't be missing much school that day. By the way, according to my kid's school, kids don't get an excused absence except for doctors appointments and college visits. Maybe it varies by school?
Anonymous said…
"The fake fire alarm really isn't cute from a safety perspective."

We do "fake fire alarms" all the time. They are called "fire drills". As long as the principal let the FD know it was a drill, not a problem from a safety perspective.

Anonymous said…
@SOM "Kids will do anything to get out of class. This activism needs to stop."

So which is it, kids who will do anything to get out of class, and don't really care about the issue, or activism?

It sounds like your real complaint is activism. Hmm, I wonder why?

Activists change public opinion and awareness, which are engines of change.

Act on, kids.

NESeattleMom, you are correct. I believe it was Superintendent Nyland who left it to principals to decide on what is excused. Some principals are more lenient than others. Note to anyone who is going away for Thanksgiving, winter holiday, etc. - be sure you know what your school's policy is on excused absences.
Gandi said…
Activists don’t ask for and don’t wait for permission. They act.
Jet City mom said…
What a missed opportunity.

On the other hand my daughter is mentoring 20 high school students this year, up from about 11 last year, re: environmental activism.
Last year they drove over 250 miles to meet with legislators to voice their concerns, and this yr they’ve already had a sit down with their state senator, ( who came to them)
Real world experiences beat dry textbooks anyday.
Ozone. said…
Maybe those dry textbooks, lab work, class discussions and experiments could lead to some actual solutions. The vast majority of people understand climate change is here. But the current solutions being proposed aren’t being accepted or adopted on a scale that will have any appreciable impact.

Study hard, think outside the box, save the planet.

Posters, feet and shrill shouting isn’t working.
Anonymous said…
@ Ozone, it sounds like you're suggesting we go back to the drawing board and hope that we can eventually come up with a miraculous new solution that will be more acceptable to and adoptable by the world, is that right? It better be a doozy of a solution, because things will probably be a whole lot worse by that point.

Crossing our fingers and hoping for more palatable and less painful solutions to this mess probably won't get us far. Or at least not far in the right direction, that is.

Maybe pushing for greater acceptance and adoption of currently proposed solutions is exactly the right approach, at least for now. It's not like people can't also be trying to identify and develop improved solutions at the same time.

Uh-oh Zone

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