Three school friends have been told they can't go to their end-of-year prom because they took part in a school climate strike earlier this year.
The 16-year-olds Ellie Kinlock, Tyler McHugh, and Isobel Deady, from Lancashire in England, are said to be devastated by the punishment and their parents feel the school has tried to “make an example of them”.
The climate-conscious pupils decided to go on the Youth Strike 4 Climate march in Manchester on May 24, following the movement’s worldwide attention — inspired by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, who started a school strike last year.
The point of the walk-outs has been to send a message to adults that children and teenagers feel their future is so at risk that they feel un-motivated to study until adults actually take action on halting climate change.
Peter Mayland, the girls' headteacher at Albany Academy in Chorley, Lancashire, has said however that the protest counts as a "unauthorised absence".
On the 24th of May, three young activists joined thousands of others in protesting the climate crisis. Their school responded by banning them from attending prom. This punishment is harsh & unjustified, please sign this petition to overturn this decision. https://t.co/pOk0Fq89Gp— YouthStrike4Climate (@Strike4Youth) June 22, 2019
So the students and their parents have gone to the media to raise awareness of their situation, and protest the decision.
They argue that they informed the school of their plan to participate in demonstrating and feel that it should have been considered “an exceptional circumstance”.
Speaking to the Independent, the families say they have suggested different ways they could be disciplined for the absence, such as paying a fine, being put in detention, or doing an environmental project to help the school. But the headteacher hasn’t changed the decision.
Janine Deady, Isobel’s mother, said: “We hear so often that young people are apathetic but it’s not the case. The girls are an example of that.”
Deady added that her daughter "had decided to join the protest after seeing a lot of things in the media about environmental damage, including the Our Planet documentary with Sir David Attenborough.”
She said: “Isobel considered very carefully taking the day off for the strike action, it was not taken lightly at all.”
Meanwhile Karen Kinloch, Ellie's mother, said that parents were not informed that they would be disciplined to this extent.
"If they had told me in advance I would have made a decision. We've spent £500 on Ellie for the prom in dresses, tickets, transport," she told the paper. "Ellie is devastated. We all are. We’ve never felt so strongly about anything like this."
She added that the teens were well-behaved and had only skipped school for something they really believe in.
"They've done nothing wrong in five years at this school, they’ve never been in trouble once," Kinloch said. "You’ve got children [going to prom] with worse disciplinary records who have done far worse than skip school for something they believe in. We accept it as an unauthorised absence but we don’t accept the weight of the punishment.”
Mayland said in response: “Albany Academy has an excellent reputation based on the high standards we have, especially for students' attendance, behaviour, and safety."
He added: “Our rule on attendance during exams has been in place for many years: Year 11 children need to be in school to prepare fully for their GCSEs."
The girls involved and their families have launched a petiton in a bid to have Mayland reverse his decision, that has been signed by more than 2,000 people.