Ann Arbor Public Schools will allow students to leave class to participate in the “Global Climate Strike” on Friday if their parents approve. 

In a letter to parents that was posted online by the organizers of the Washtenaw County Climate Strike, AAPS Deputy Superintendent David A. Comsa said the schools aim to provide a safe environment for students on campus.

“We are clear that our students are expected to be in school and to remain on school grounds,” Comsa wrote. “Students may only be excused from our campuses with parental permission in advance of an off-campus event. Our work with our student leaders is focused on activities on our campuses. With advisement from law enforcement, we discourage our students from gathering at any sites off of our campuses.”

Six months after a previous Climate Strike in March culminated in 10 demonstrators being arrested after a nearly eight-hour sit-in at the Fleming Administration Building, another protest is planned for Friday. The demonstration will begin at 11 a.m. on the Ingalls Mall outside of Rackham Auditorium.

Naina Agrawal-Hardin, press liaison for Washtenaw County Climate Strike and a junior at Washtenaw International High School, applauded AAPS for allowing students to leave class.

“While AAPS can’t legally encourage students to leave class, as organizers we are happy to see that our work has pushed AAPS to acknowledge our movement and the right of all students to be part of this historic moment fighting for their futures,” Agrawal-Hardin told The Daily. “We hope that in future we can work even more closely with AAPS towards transformative action on climate justice.”

Comsa said administrators would work to maintain order.

“In all cases, students are supervised, whether they choose to participate or not,” Comsa wrote. “We encourage all parents/guardians to speak with their student(s) about the messaging related to this event, including anticipated student walkouts, and ways in which students can constructively and safely express their viewpoints.”

Comsa also clarified that students are not being required to take part in the walkout.

“We will respect the rights of all students, whether they choose to participate or not,” Comsa said. “Thus, we work with our student leaders and coordinate supervision and procedures to assure student safety on our campuses. No student will be required to participate in any student-led activities, including walkouts.”

In contrast, University administrators have not made any announcements excusing students and staff from classes during the strike. LSA freshman Porter Hughes created a petition calling on the University to “dismiss all students, faculty, staff, employees, and all other associated personnel during this time so that all who wish to participate may without fear of punishment or consequence.”

“I think the University has a responsibility to ensure that civic engagement maintains a core part of its mission by not only talking the talk but also by walking the walk and allowing people to go and participate in the event without fear of retribution or punishment in any way, shape or form,” Hughes said.

Hughes said the petition is meant to be sent University President Mark Schlissel, and that he’s trying to get in touch with other administrators as well. The University should recognize how impactful the climate crisis is for students and for their futures, Hughes said. 

“Climate change is affecting us in our everyday lives and is going to have an even bigger impact in our near future,” Hughes said.

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