Students Walk Out to Raise Awareness for Climate Change

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Students Walk Out to Raise Awareness for Climate Change

Caleb Stine and Saleana Zheng

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Last Friday, a “climate walkout” took place in front of the flagpole during the last 30 minutes of first period, from 10:00 to 10:30 am. The demonstration was very well-publicized due to the efforts of supporters on social media through the creation of an Instagram account for the protest, @jhsclimate. The main organizer of the walkout, Shaun Deardorff, purposefully planned the demonstration for last week in an attempt to join the more than 5,000 protests held in over 150 countries. According to Deardorff, the walkout had three key purposes. The first purpose was to unite fellow students around a cause and “bring increased awareness to the Jordan community about the effects and urgency of climate change,” the second purpose was to stand in solidarity with demonstrations occurring globally at the same time, and the third reason for this walkout was to encourage small environmental reforms at Jordan High School, including “enforced recycling, donation of unused food, and reducing excess waste.” In hopes of fulfilling these goals, when the clock struck ten, masses of students began to congregate underneath the flag. 

Around the flagpole, crowds of students were seen protesting. Representing all grades and races, many of these students walked out to make a statement. Victoria, a freshman, stated that she was participating in this global climate strike in hopes of  “getting someone to notice and start actual changes”. Similarly, senior Maddie Morrison said, “I just feel like nobody knows about climate change and that they think it’s a simple thing, but really it’s so much more complicated.” Junior Jameson O’Hara responded, “it’s simple: I’m here because of climate change.” Claudia Tapia spoke with emphasis, saying “we gotta do something… I’m not trying to die, I’m trying to live longer, I want my kids to have a future.” These students believed that using the climate strike was an efficient platform to express their views. Directly beneath the flagpole, a megaphone was passed around to anyone who wished to speak into it. Junior Bilal Alkurdasi loudly encouraged students and the school to start recycling more. Grant Bennett also spoke in an attempt to rally his peers in a battle he believes they are fighting alone. “These adults are not going to speak up, these students and I have to take a stand and today is that day.”  

However, several other students were less confident in the purpose and results of the walkout. Victoria Williams, a senior, explained why she didn’t protest. “I didn’t walk out, because walking out for climate change is not going to change the climate at all…us walking out of school and not doing our classwork isn’t going to solve anything.” Instead, she believes that Jordan could start recycling and taking other preemptive actions to take a step towards being more environmentally friendly. Sam Ferrell agreed with Williams, expressing his belief that “walking out during school [and] wasting our valuable learning time is absurd.” Ferrell also offered what he believes to be a more effective way to demonstrate: “Those who care about this climate protest should organize something downtown, not during precious learning hours.” A freshman who asked to remain anonymous highlighted these beliefs by challenging the usefulness of the protest, saying “explain to me what a walkout does to help the environment.” 

Despite not being formally approved by Principal Taylor, administrators and teachers–including Taylor herself–were present to witness the march. Deputy Costa and his team set up barriers of cones and patrolmen in order to alleviate any safety concerns. While Costa was happy to see “students being aware of current events,” he believed that the demonstration had room for improvement. Those in the center spoke out of a megaphone, but the SRO believed that there could have been more to be done by students to get their message across. “I wish it were more focused; my suggestion is that there should be some sort of amplified acoustics to engage with the crowd,” reflected Costa. School counselor Nowak and Assistant Principal Ganim expressed their support for the demonstration as well. Nowak asserted that “I think it’s awesome. … Climate change is definitely happening, just look at today’s weather [over 90 degrees in late September]. I’m definitely all for it.” Ganim’s thoughts echoed a more neutral view on the walkout. “We’re here to support students in the safest way we can. We just want to make sure students here feel supported.” On the contrary, Mr. Perez thought that this protest was especially effective for the very reason others may believe it to not be. Perez affirmed his belief that “when mass amounts of people disrupt business as usual in one way or another, people are forced to pay attention. We are seeing that now with the climate strike.” Perez went on to list many historical examples of effective mass protests, including those in the feminist movement, the labor movement, and those in the very recent teacher march on Raleigh, in which many Jordan teachers took part. 

The primary purposes of the walkout were to call attention to the consequences of climate change, partake in the global climate strikes, and to enforce more environmental policies at Jordan. Joining the thousands of student-led rallies around the nation, Jordan’s students were aiming to make a statement through their protest. A majority were mainly worried about their quality of life in the future but the biggest concern of some was how much class time they would miss.  As it has only been a week since the walkout, its success has yet to be determined considering how many of the students’ goals will be accomplished.