Benicia – no student strikes at public schools or on our streets on Global Youth Climate Strike day?

By Roger Straw, September 21, 2019

Students evidently not active here in Benicia on Global Strike Day, September 20, 2019

Student-led March For Our Lives crowd of 1500 at Benicia gazebo, March, 2018

As far as I can tell, there were no student strikes at public schools or on the streets of Benicia or Vallejo on Global Youth Climate Strike day 2020.

Police estimated that 1500 took part in the student-led Benicia March For Our Lives in 2018.  It seems gun violence in schools strikes a chord, but the threat of a planet in crisis is a little too far off for most of our kids and those who support and encourage them.

Breathe deep.  Read the news.  And wake, young’uns.  Most of you already know: The planet is on fire and there is no PLANet B!

Global Climate Strike protesters march, chant, and hold signs, one of which reads, “There is no planet B.”
Activists gather in John Marshall Park for the Global Climate Strike protests in Washington, DC, on September 20, 2019. | VOX, Samuel Corum/Getty Images

I reached out, but have not heard a thing from Benicia High School activists or teachers.

Granted, I was undergoing minor surgery on the 20th.  I was not only unable to protest myself – I didn’t drive around town looking for signs of walkouts or rallies.  So there MIGHT have been something going on.  I really hope so.  But I think not.

Our only local daily newspaper, the Vallejo Times-Herald, reported on a Vallejo Charter School rally (definitely NOT a strike, according to Matt Smith, Griffin Technologies Academies Superintendent ).  That rally, while informative and perhaps even empowering for students, stayed on campus, where students listened to speakers and participated in adult-led chants.


I’m guessing our students were told that if they walked out, they would be charged with an unexcused absence, which was evidently the widespread approach here in the SF Bay Area:

“Although schools in New York City allowed students to take the day off as an excused absence if they marched, that wasn’t the case in the Bay Area. School districts around the Bay Area issued statements saying they generally supported the students’ exercising their First Amendment rights, but that anyone who left a school facility would be given an unexcused absence.”  — Bay Area News Group report, published in the Vallejo Times-Herald

Encouragement: there are plenty of coming events you can still take part in.  See the EVENTS calendar.
Here are the Vallejo Times-Herald’s two stories on the Climate Strike:


Thousands walk out in Bay Area
Vallejo Times-Herald, Bay Area News Group report, September 21, 2019
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 20: Students (in back bananas) from different Oakland high schools take part in a climate strike march along Market Street in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Marchers in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the world demand action on climate change. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Thousands of people across the Bay Area took to the streets Friday as part of a global “climate strike” to urge political leaders to do more to address climate change.

The demonstrations were led by students but included adult workers.

In San Francisco, a crowd estimated at roughly 8,000 people met at the federal building on Seventh Street, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein have their offices, and prepared to march 1.1 miles down Market Street, past the offices of Bank of America and PG& E before ending at Embarcadero Plaza near the Ferry Building.

Chanting and banging drums, the crowd, largely made up of young people, held signs saying “Grownups do something,” “There is no Planet B” and “Governor Newsom stand up to big oil.”

In the East Bay, about 200 people gathered to chant and rally in the Laney College courtyard, including groups of students from Montclair Elementary and St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Oakland. Organizers planned to board BART and join up with marchers in San Francisco later in the day.

St. Paul’s eighth grader Lily Salazar came to the demonstration as part of a field trip with dozens of her classmates, who made signs at school on Thursday.

Salazar said she wanted to send a message to politicians: that, in the future, “We are going to be the voters,” and that the changing climate matters to them.

“It’s our futures — if we don’t stand up now then eventually it will be too late,” Salazar said. “We’re going to have to live with it.” It wasn’t the first protest for the class. Salazar and other students also joined nationwide student demonstrations against gun violence in the spring of 2018. On the Peninsula, students walked out of class at San Mateo High School and other high schools.

Across the United States and in other countries, similar protests took place. Events were planned at 4,500 locations in 150 countries, from France to Uganda to Kabul, Afghanistan, where 100 people, mostly young women, marched holding signs, protected by armed soldiers. The events were timed around a United Nations Climate Summit set for Monday in New York.

They were inspired by a series of school walkouts to protest climate, started by Greta Thunberg, a 16-yearold Swedish activist who, after taking a boat across the Atlantic, testified before the House of Representatives earlier this week — where she chastised the lawmakers for not taking action on climate change — and met former President Barack Obama.

Although schools in New York City allowed students to take the day off as an excused absence if they marched, that wasn’t the case in the Bay Area. School districts around the Bay Area issued statements saying they generally supported the students’ exercising their First Amendment rights, but that anyone who left a school facility would be given an unexcused absence. Some noted that schools cannot protect students when they leave campus and also that schools would lose state funding for each student who missed a day of school.

Cynthia Greaves, communications manager for the Mountain View Los Altos School District, said Friday that although the district “supports the students’ civic rights to participate in the walkout, their absences will not be excused.”

It is up to each teacher’s discretion whether students who participate in the walkout will be able to make up the class work they miss, Greaves said.

Liv Wisely, 17, a senior at El Cerrito High School, in Contra Costa County, said teachers agreed to excuse her absences so she could attend the demonstration Friday morning. She was motivated by a sense of responsibility to future generations, she said.

“There really is a right and a wrong side of history,” Wisely said. “In the end, you’re going to be held responsible, the same as everyone else who just stood by and watched it happen.”

Anna Fletcher, a senior at Los Altos High and one of the organizers of her school’s walkout, called Thunberg a “big inspiration” for the decision to plan a march.

“Some people think protesting doesn’t do anything, but it really only takes one person to make a change,” Fletcher said Climate activism has been ramping up over the last two years as the effects of climate change have become more visible.

And… here’s the Vallejo Times-Herald story on the charter school rally:



Griffin, MIT hear adult pleas for their help
Vallejo Times-Herald, by Richard Freedman, Sep 21, 2019
Students and faculty from the Mare Island Technology Academy march as they take part in the Global Youth Climate Strike on Friday in Vallejo. PHOTOS BY CHRIS RILEY — TIMES-HERALD

While a 16-year-old Swedish girl chastised politicians on Capitol Hill this week, sister charter schools in Vallejo held a Global Climate Action Rally Day of their own.

Activist Greta Thunberg enlightened the suits in Washington, D.C., hoisting a sign in Swedish “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” (“School Strike for Climate”).

“I don’t want to be heard all the time, but if there is anything I can do to improve the situation then I think it’s a very small price to pay,” Thunberg told CNN.

Young people took to the streets in protest worldwide, including thousands in New York City.

While Griffin Technologies Academies Superintendent Matt Smith emphasized Friday’s late morning Vallejo rally and march was not a strike, he approved an extended lunch period for guest speakers and a march around each respective campus — a block from each other in north Vallejo.

The goal, Smith said, was to “raise awareness about climate change and to mobilize students to take an active role as leaders in our society.”

At the Griffin Academy, sixth and seventh grade students listened to an environmental chant by conservation biologist Michael Oakes before strolling around the interior of the five-acre campus.

“I want them to feel empowered to voice their concerns,” said Griffin Technology Academy Principal Stephanie Morgado. “There’s a lot of talk about what you can and cannot do, especially concerning our demographics. They can come together for a cause.”

Plastic consumption “and how we re-purpose all this plastic material” is a significant concern for Morgado, who sports a simple line drawing tattoo of two otters on her right arm.

The day of rallying and marches “bring that awareness to the students and their families,” Morgado continued, calling Thunberg’s appearance before the legislators “huge.”

“I think we downplay the power that our students have to make change and how we need to build a sense of urgency,” Morgado said.

Climate change “impacts people beyond our sphere,” added the second year principal. “It’s not just an America issue. It’s a global issue. There’s a lack of awareness to that.”

Natasha McCormick, an English teacher at Griffin, said the rally and march were “really exciting and super fun to watch in terms of getting engaged.”

McCormick believes it’s up to the younger generation to, if not save the planet entirely, work to solve climate change challenges.

“If anyone’s going to do it, it’s them,” McCormick said. “It’s certainly not the people in power.”

The students “want to know why things are important, why they matter and why we would spend time learning about it,” McCormick said. “Legitimate questions.”

One Griffin student, Davonna Nurzi, 12, lamented how “a lot of kids these days and adults litter and that it can go to the ocean, pollute, and injure animals and make them extinct.”

Sixth grader Amelia Ostem held a sign, “My world’s on FIRE, how about yours?” She said she marched “because people are dying and so are the animals.”

A block away at the sister school, MIT Academy, Principal Byron Laird took to the megaphone, shouting “Climate!” with around 500 kids responding “Change!”

“It is a very important day,” Laird said. “The issues spoken today are not to scare you, not to alarm you .. it’s to bring an awareness to this situation that we’re dealing with. What happens today with the environment and climate affects everyone.”

Laird handed the spotlight to Dan Feldman, a climate scientist at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley.

“I study climate change all day long and I’m here because I want to inspire the next generation of scientists,” Feldman said, telling the students that “we’re in the business of documenting” the rise of carbon dioxide “and you’re in the business of solving it.”

Feldman said carbon dioxide is “creating all sorts of change … some change is good, some change is not so good” like heat waves and wild fires.

Feldman said the younger generation has given him hope for a solution.

“I see the new generation coming together and we need to come together, not in the future, but right now,” Feldman said.

Oakes made a quick jaunt from Griffin to MIT in hopes of encouraging the teens to get involved.

“Whose world is it? Whose earth is it? It’s yours and it’s every other creature,” Oakes said. “Everything is connected. We’re all connected.”

Oakes noted that 195 countries participated in recent scientific studies. “That,” he said, “says climate change is real. We’re causing it.

“Can we make a change? Yes.”

Oakes encouraged the students to transition to a plant-based diet to reduce the use of land, water, energy and pollution.

It’s going to take “political will … so support candidates that support the Green New Deal,” Oakes said.

One student was on his own mission.

“Save the turtles,” he said.