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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.
Indigenous Amazonian leaders from Brazil and Ecuador take part in a media event together with young environmental activists and Greta Thurnberg on Capitol Hill on Sept. 17, 2019. Eric Baradat / AFP - Getty Images

New York City’s 1.1 million public school students will be allowed to skip class to participate in global climate strike protests scheduled for this Friday, ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in Manhattan.

Middle and high school students who attend the protests with parental consent will receive an excused absence, while younger students will need to be signed out by a parent, according to the city's Department of Education.

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

The walkouts, which organizers say will take place in over 150 countries, seek to put pressure on world leaders ahead of the U.N. Climate Action Summit, which is set to begin Monday. Dozens of heads of state are expected to attend, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Indian President Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron. These leaders are expected to renew and strengthen their countries’ efforts to address climate change under the 2015 Paris Climate Accords. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris agreement.

Friday’s strike will build on a global movement spearheaded by teenagers like Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who recently crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a zero-emission sailboat to participate in climate protests in New York City and Washington. Thunberg and other teen activists have been planning Friday’s strikes for months, hoping to exert maximum pressure on leaders attending the United Nations summit.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged his support of Friday’s protest, saying, “New York City stands with our young people. They’re our conscience.” Thunberg praised New York's decision to give students excused absences and urged other cities to do the same.

But the strike is not without critics. The New York Post's editorial board blasted de Blasio and the city school system, calling the decision to allow the strike “pathetic” and “out-and-out government sponsorship of a particular point of view.”

With 1.1 million students, New York City’s school system is the largest in the country.