Student Walkout

Natrona County High School students sit in the end zone of the school's football field during a 2018 walkout to show solidarity with those in Parkland, Florida and other victims of past mass shootings. Students at the school are planning a strike next week to raise awareness about climate change.

Joining a wave of such protests across the Western world, Natrona County High students will stage a one-day strike from school next week over the looming, planet-altering effects of climate change.

“I do want anyone who feels that they deserve a planet where you can live and breathe and work to show up because we don’t have another planet as a backup plan,” said NC junior Maille Gray, who’s organizing the event.

On May 3, Gray and others will take a sick day from school, she said. The group will hold a rally in the morning at Casper’s Washington Park, which will include speakers and group discussion by students. The rally will also include 11 minutes of silence — from 11 a.m. to 11:11 — to signify the 11 years humanity has left to stave off the catastrophe of climate disaster.

A United Nations report, written by leading climate scientists, warned last year that the planet has just a dozen years to limit the impact of climate change. If the max temperatures increase beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the Guardian, then “even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.”

The Casper protest will come two months after a similar protest in Jackson brought out 30 students. Protests were held around the country and globe by as many as a million younger people, according to the Guardian. The international endeavor, like the local one, is an effort by the coming generations to urge change that would avert the worst effects of climate change and global warming.

The protest is also the second effort by NC students in the past year. In March 2018, students from the west Casper school walked out of school to show solidarity with the victims of the Parkland, Florida, shooting. Kelly Walsh students held an internal event, students there previously said.

It’s unclear how many students will participate in Natrona County’s “strike,” nor is it clear how many will attend next Friday’s rally, Gray said. She and the other students, organized under the banner of the national Youth Climate Strike group, will begin advertising and hanging up posters this week. She said she has reached out to students at Roosevelt and Kelly Walsh, as well.

In a statement, Natrona County School District spokeswoman Tanya Southerland said Wednesday that, per policy, students who join the strike will be marked absent.

“This ensures the school is able to account for those who are present and/or absent, thus ensuring student safety,” Southerland wrote. “For an absence to count as a parent excused absence, the parent or guardian of the student will notify the school in person, by telephone, or in writing prior to the absence or as soon as possible. Students who have an unverified absence may face appropriate disciplinary consequences, per district policy.”

Gray said she realized she needed to do something after hiking in the Wind River Range. According to her map, which dated back to the early 1990s, she should’ve been camping on a glacier. In reality, she said, the glacier was a half-mile away.

“If that change in glacier mass is possible in 20, 30 years, just imagining the amount of change if we don’t do anything is detrimental,” she said, “and it means I won’t be able to enjoy the beautiful outdoors that I love so much.”

Gray said she was expecting some backlash but was hoping people understood why she and other students feel they must speak up.

“The youth have a strong, strong amount of political force because we’re the ones that come next,” she said. “And we’re the ones who take over, essentially, and we also have the most time left on this planet.”

Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann


Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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