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'Young People Are Correct to Be Outraged': Seattle City Council Urges Public Schools to Let Students Join Global Climate Strike

"Seattle Public Schools should stand with the global climate justice movement and excuse students so they can participate in the global climate strike."

Students take part in a climate protest in Washington, D.C. on September 13, 2019. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

The Seattle City Council on Monday unanimously approved resolutions to establish a Green New Deal Oversight Committee and urge the city's public schools to excuse students who wish to take part in the global climate strike on Sept. 20.

The latter resolution, sponsored by socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant, also affirms the right of city employees to request leave for a day of conscience to participate in the strikes, which organizers say could bring millions of people into the streets around the world.

"Young people are correct to be outraged, and they have no choice but to take action."
—Kshama Sawant, Seattle city councilmember

In a letter to the Seattle City School Board after the passage of her resolution, Sawant urged the body to "respect Seattle students' right to participate in the global climate strike and excuse them from classes on Friday, September 20th, to do so."

"After decades of inaction by corporate politicians and a recent report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change giving humanity just 12 years before surpassing a critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming," wrote Sawant, "young people are correct to be outraged, and they have no choice but to take action."

"Seattle Public Schools should stand with the global climate justice movement," Sawant added, "and excuse students so they can participate in the global climate strike on September 20th."

Sawant noted that thousands of Seattle students are likely to participate in the strike, whether or not the school board excuses their absences.

Grace Lambert, a 17-year-old Seattle student and the Washington State co-lead for U.S. Youth Climate Strikes, said in a statement Monday that she is taking part in the mass action "because it is my future on the line here."

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The Seattle City Council's vote comes just days after New York City's public school system announced it would excuse absences for students participating in the global climate strike.

In addition to the Seattle City Council's vote in support of the climate strikes, environmentalists celebrated the passage of a measure establishing a Green New Deal Oversight Committee, which would map out the implementation of the city's Green New Deal resolution and ensure input from community leaders.

"Comprised of 11 representatives of environmental justice organizations and frontline communities, three people with professional backgrounds in climate pollution reduction strategies, two labor union representatives, and a workforce development specialist, the Green New Deal Oversight Committee will ensure that community members from communities most impacted by economic and environmental injustice are centered in the city's decision-making on Green New Deal policies," 350 Seattle said in a press release on Monday.

Councilmember Mike O'Brien, the lead sponsor of the resolution establishing the committee, said the body "gives climate leaders a platform to deliver solutions that both solve the climate crisis, provide new economic opportunities, and do it in a way that justly transitions us from a fossil fuel-dependent economy."

"We have ten years to radically transform our city and our economy to eliminate fossil fuel use if we want to stem the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, including asthma hurting households and the relocation of tribal communities affected by sea level rise," said O'Brien. "Seattle's Green New Deal will get us there."

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