Edmonton trustee wants 'academic amnesty' for students in climate protest

An Edmonton public school trustee is calling on the board to give students “academic amnesty” to attend a mass climate protest planned for this Friday.

Student groups are expected to walk out of classes to attend a meeting at the Alberta legislature at 1 p.m. The event is planned as part of a series of global climate strikes being held around the world.

Trustee Michael Janz plans to make a motion that would provide “academic amnesty” for students, which would prevent them from facing academic penalties if they choose to attend the protest during school hours.

The motion would also ask school staff to avoid scheduling tests and assessments during the walk-out.

“I hope that this message from the board would encourage them to participate in their own way that makes sense,” Janz said. “So that might be something at their own school, that might be something in their neighborhood. It doesn’t have to be just attending the event at the legislature.

“What this motion would do is send a message that the tone from the top is our district cares about climate change. We acknowledge it’s real. We acknowledge it’s human made and we acknowledge we’ve got to do something about it.”

Janz is expected to bring the motion forward at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Edmonton climate activists held a “die-in” in front of Canada Place on Friday to demonstrate the possible effects of climate change. (Gabrielle Brown/Radio-Canada)

Alberta government responds

But the office of provincial Education Minister Adriana LaGrange disagrees. Spokesperson Colin Aitchison issued a statement in response to Janz’s motion on Monday.

“Our government expects education professionals to encourage students to engage meaningfully in their academics, rather than encourage them to skip tests or assignments,” it reads. 

“As a trustee, Michael Janz should understand that K-12 academics are not ‘short term’ as he claims, but instead they are a foundation for our students’ futures. Ultimately, parents and guardians — not an activist school board trustee — can determine whether they want their children to miss class.”

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