Note from the Rattlesnake PTA: On September 15, 2019, Superintendent Watson sent out an email message to parents of middle and high school aged students regarding the Climate Strike. It was NOT sent out to elementary aged students’ families. We have copied and pasted the original email below for your general reference and information.
From: Rob Watson, MCPS Superintendent
To: MCPS Middle and High School families:
Our school district is aware of the Missoula Climate Strike and associated activities planned for Friday, September 20-27, 2019. We would like to provide students and their families with factual information to guide their decisions around participation in these events.
Our teachers, support staff, and administrators won’t discourage or resist student efforts to participate in the climate strike events. We also can’t encourage student participation in such events. School Board policy and state law prohibits employees of public organizations from participating in political speech while at work.
The school district can, and does, engage in the academic pursuit of knowledge about climate change as well as practical, implementable solutions to the problems connected with climate change. We know that climate change is real and we are committed to doing our part to create solutions to stop its devastating impact on our planet. As a District, we have adopted Zero by Fifty goals aligned with the city of Missoula’s Zero by Fifty plan. We have actions connected to those goals across the district, including the solar installations being completed at four of our urban high school campuses which allow for student research; the recycling and composting pilot at Jeannette Rankin Elementary; and the 5th grade Zero Waste Ambassadors Program (ZWAP) conducted at all nine of our elementary schools in coordination with Home ReSource. We teach about climate change in our science classes following the Next Generation Science Standards. There are also inspiring instances of student leadership within the S.A.V.E. club at Hellgate and the Eco Club at Sentinel. These represent just a few examples of what we are doing to demonstrate our commitment to this issue, but as a District we know we can do more. In the coming months, District administration has committed to engaging student leadership on this important issue in an effort to create future actionable steps.
Within our school environments, our first priority is to create safe learning spaces for our students. This includes providing a safe environment that allows students to learn about controversial issues and develop and express educated opinions on these issues. It is reasonable that students may discuss the strike in the normal course of classroom conversation on current events or in connection with other elements of District curriculum. Civil discourse of controversial issues is an important part of our democratic process and as such should be practiced and encouraged in our educational environments. This practice is also supported by school district policy.
Procedures for the upcoming climate strike:
As we do each day, we will follow existing school-based procedures for reporting and managing absences during the period of climate strike events.
High school students who choose to leave campus on their own must be excused by parents. Students who are not excused by parents will be marked absent and the school will follow normal procedures for unexcused absences.
Middle school students must be signed out by a parent or an approved guardian. These students will not be allowed to leave campus without consent and the presence of a parent or approved guardian. If you plan to allow your child to leave campus with someone other than yourself, please provide notice at least 24 hours in advance to allow school staff time to process your request in our record keeping systems.
Students in any grade who miss class due to an excused absence will be afforded the opportunity to make up work.
We are asking students who choose to participate conduct themselves with respect, responsibility, safety, and to adhere to school policies and the law. In addition, we expect that students participating in the event will not disrupt the school environment as classes will continue as normal. Thank you for your help in sharing these expectations with your student(s).
We are committed to working together with student and community leaders to support the exercise of their First Amendment rights and engagement in this important issue. We realize that our primary responsibility is to provide a safe and productive learning environment and our schools will all function on a normal schedule.