MAPLEWOOD, NJ — For the second time this year, students from Columbia High School walked out of classes and marched to get the attention of legislators at the local, state, and federal level.
Some 125 students, mostly from CHS plus about two dozen from Maplewood Middle School, left school on a cold day yesterday, Dec. 6, to make their voices heard. They gathered on the front steps of the Maplewood Municipal Building on Valley Road. They heard from their fellow students about the effects climate change is having on the planet, the power they have as citizens to protest and to vote when they reach age 18, and the effect of fast fashion on the climate.
Student leader Lily Forman, also the CHS student representative to the South Orange Maplewood School District Board of Education, thanked those that came out to the rally and said, “By being here you are making history."
She encouraged the students to continue to take action. "Here’s what we know,” she said. “We need to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 1.5 degrees and if we don’t take action now, that goal will soon become impossible.”
When they walked out, student climate strikers earned an unexcused absence but no official censure from Columbia High School. In a letter sent to parents the day before, interim principal Dr. Kalisha Morgan wrote,“Our priority is to maintain a safe and secure learning environment. At the same time, we also respect the constitutional right of our students to engage in protests that do not interfere with the learning process.
Read more here about the September student climate strike.
Students will not be disciplined for engaging in civil protests that do not interfere with the learning environment. However, leaving class without permission would be considered an unexcused absence and in violation of the Columbia High School attendance policy.”
Student leader Hudson said “this day marks a new chapter in our local fight against climate change.” He called for the students to not just be “preaching to the choir” in a positive “feedback loop,” but also to branch out in their protest and lobbying efforts, because “New Jersey isn’t a perfectly blue state.”
When student leader Jordan stepped up to the mic, she said, “I saw stoic faces before and that’s a good thing. It means you are learning and really taking it in. And I also see smiles now,” which showed the beauty of the crowd, she said. “That’s the energy we need,” she said.
When the protest ended, Jordan led a group of about 25-30 students who chose not to return to school to the train station. From there they took a NJ Transit train to Newark to join other students from around the state in a protest there.
The day continued with a Teach-In at The Woodland in Maplewood Village in the evening, where students and their families were invited to further learn how to combat the climate crisis.
Read more here about what the students had to say about why they were striking.