The education department is prohibiting field trips to the Global Climate Strike on Friday, according to a last-minute notice sent to schools. That decision could upend months of planning for educators who saw the event as a teaching moment.
New York City students can still join the protests without being marked for an unexcused absence, if they receive parent permission. But teachers will not be allowed to join them — leaving it up to parents to chaperone or to students to travel on their own.
Education department spokesman Will Mantell said the guidance against field trips, and the timing of the notice to schools, mirrors the city’s policy for when students left class after the Parkland, Florida school shooting.
“This is about students raising their voice. We’ve sent clear guidance to schools on procedures for tomorrow and we’re prepared for a smooth, safe day,” he wrote in an email.
Schools were informed of the restrictions on Tuesday, according to the education department, just three days before masses of students are expected to fill Foley Square in Lower Manhattan as part of a global, youth-driven protest to demand action on climate change. That and other smaller demonstrations are also expected across the city, in advance of the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York.
Teachers and administrators scrambled to inform parents of the education department’s decision. At M.S. 839 in Brooklyn, the principal sent an email Wednesday saying a planned field trip had been canceled.
“We understand that many students and families will be greatly disappointed that this cancellation has happened and will want to continue ensuring their voice is heard by participating in the climate strike,” the email said. “We support that decision and their growth as leaders on this crucial issue.”
At Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies in Carroll Gardens, teachers worked through the summer to organize outings to both the Manhattan march and a related event in nearby Red Hook. Studying climate change is a core part of the school’s curriculum throughout middle and high school. Now, the Red Hook field trip, which was for middle schoolers, has been canceled and students will need to be signed out by a parent in order to participate.
Deidre Hoguet, the mom of a seventh-grader at the school who will be chaperoning a trip into Manhattan, says that limits participation to students who have “parents with means and who can take off work.”
“It ruins a lot of plans,” she said.
Science teacher Philip Schoolman said the climate strike fit perfectly into the school’s approach, which focuses not only on “hard science,” but also how to educate others about climate change. The prohibition on field trips, he said, felt like a “mixed signal” and “whiplash,” considering the education department’s decision to excuse students from class.
“Our position is that climate change is not a political event. It’s part of our curriculum,” he said. “It’s hard science, and the approaches to dealing with it are something everyone should be working on and discussing.”
You can read the education department’s guidance to schools here.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies.