New York City won't penalize students for skipping school for climate rally
© Aaron Schwartz

More than 1 million New York City students won’t be penalized for skipping school to attend a climate strike on Friday. 

The strike — one of more than 800 protests taking place across the country on Friday, three days before the United Nations Climate Action Summit — had sparked a debate over the role for public schools in student political activism, The New York Times reports.

Ahead of the strike, parents in the nation’s largest school district struggled with how to email their children’s schools asking for excused absences, while teachers were left unsure of how to approach the subject, the Times reports.

While some students planned to strike no matter what, others were conflicted due to potential consequences for getting an unexcused absence.


But the city’s Department of Education tweeted Thursday that the district would excuse absences for those participating in the climate strike, applauding students for their activism. 

The Education Department will send guidelines to schools on Tuesday, and teachers will receive age-appropriate resources on climate change in light of the events, the Times reports.

Protest organizers say the decision could prompt other districts to follow suit.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest, said officials were “still finalizing” plans regarding the protests, the Times notes.

Critics are accusing Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Fauci says focus should be on pausing reopenings rather than reverting to shutdowns; WHO director pleads for international unity in pandemic response Trump calls New York City 'hellhole' after court upholds subpoena from city prosecutors NYPD retirements surge over 400 percent amid tensions with mayor MORE (D) of promoting a political agenda.

The New York Post’s editorial board slammed the move as “out-and-government sponsorship of a particular point of view,” the Times notes. Other opponents say it would be more effective for teachers to make climate-themed lesson plans.

Students will still need consent from their parents or guardians to be excused on Friday.