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'Holy Smokes, This Thing Could Get HUGE': NYC Public Schools to Let Students #ClimateStrike

"They are finally treating the crisis like a crisis," said 14-year-old New Yorker and climate striker Alexandria Villaseñor.

Youth climate activists

Thousands of young people gathered in Parliament Square in central London to protest against the government's lack of action on the climate crisis and destruction of the environment on Feb. 15, 2019. (Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Climate advocates celebrated Thursday after New York City's public school system announced it would excuse the absences of students who have a parent's permission to participate in the global climate strike on Friday, Sept. 20.

"Holy cow!" tweeted Bill McKibben, a co-founder 350.org. The environmental group is helping plan a week of action that will feature thousands of events around the world to coincide with a United Nations climate summit in New York City.

Another 350.org co-founder, Jamie Henn, also welcomed the NYC announcement on Twitter Thursday. He wrote, "holy smokes, this thing could get HUGE."

The NYC Public Schools account explained in a series of tweets that younger students will only be allowed to leave school for the climate strike if they are accompanied by a parent and promised to share guidance with the city's schools and promote class discussions about the climate crisis.

Alexandria Villaseñor, a 14-year-old NYC leader of Fridays for Future and the first American to hold a school strike for climate, noted in a statement that the New York City Department of Education's decision came "after many months of hard work and conversations between we activists and the city."

"They are finally treating the crisis like a crisis and this will make sure that September 20th is the largest mobilization that New York City has ever seen," said Villaseñor. "Now, I am calling on every city in the U.S. to follow New York City's lead, and support their students in striking for their futures. We need everyone in the streets next Friday!"

"It took me only 41 weeks to be excused from school for my #ClimateStrike," she added in a tweet. "Never, ever give up people."

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NYC's announcement also came just a day after Amnesty International secretary general Kumi Naidoo sent a personal plea to more than 30,000 schools worldwide urging administrators to allow students to join the climate strikes on Sept. 20 and 27, which will bookend climate campaigners' week of action, inspired by youth activists with the Fridays for Future movement.

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swede whose protests for bold climate action outside her country's parliament last year help sparked the global school strike movement, highlighted Naidoo's letter in a tweet Thursday.

Amensty's U.S. chapter shared a video on social media Thursday featuring 15-year-old Kallan Benson from Annapolis, Maryland, who explained that through youth-led movement, "we are calling on our leaders to listen to the scientists and listen to the science that is coming out about climate change," and to do more the addressed the human-caused crisis.

Linking to globalclimatestrike.net, where activists are registering events for the week of action, 350.org also shared a video Thursday and encouraged others who intend to join the climate strikes to make their own.

"This September, millions of us will walk out of our workplaces and homes to join young climate strikers on the streets and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels," read the organizing website. "Our house is on fire—let's act like it. We demand climate justice for everyone."

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