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Children’s commissioner urges councils to not penalise youngsters involved in climate change protests

Greta Thunberg is behind Fridays for Future.
Greta Thunberg is behind Fridays for Future.

Scotland’s children’s commissioner has written to councils across Scotland urging them not to punish pupils who take part in a worldwide climate protest.

Bruce Adamson stressed children’s right to protest should be respected by adults and that they have “educational value” as well.

Teenage environmentalist Greta Thunberg is behind the Fridays for Future movement and is demanding world leaders take action on climate change.

The 18-year-old is due to attend a protest event in Germany on Friday.

Protest can ‘contribute to’ education

Mr Adamson said it was important for young people’s voices to be heard and they should not be “silenced, discourage or punished” for taking up the fight against climate change.

Bruce Adamson

Mr Adamson said: “Student protests have been recognised as having a high educational value as they are often among the first experiences of public participation and human rights defence that children take.

“This activity can contribute to, rather than detract from children’s enjoyment of their right to education.

“It is important that when children and young people take these peaceful and powerful actions, they are not silenced, discouraged or punished.

“I trust that you as education leaders will recognise the importance of this urgent global issue and will ensure that the children and young people taking part in climate strikes are given the support to which they are entitled.”

What are your councils doing?

Bosses at Highland Council have said they cannot allow absence from classrooms on Friday “no matter how well-meaning the intention.”

However, Aberdeen City Council said any school pupils choosing to take part in the worldwide climate protest will not face any punishment for their involvement.

Moray Council said any parent who informs the school their child is taking part in Fridays for Future will go down as an authorised absence.

Teenager Greta Thunberg will lead the global protest on Friday

A Highland Council spokesman said: “The Highland Council’s programme includes a commitment to introduce a range of strategies and plans to support our commitment to sustainability.

“The programme is committed to foster sustainable local communities and to developing a sustainable local workforce. Highland schools and The Highland Council as education uthority cannot sanction unauthorised absence from school, no matter how well-meaning the intention.”

An Aberdeen City Council spokesman said: “The decision on whether or not to take part is for families. Any children taking part in the action will not be punished.”

A spokesman for Moray Council said: “Parents who inform us that their child is involved in a protest as a reason for absence will have this recorded as an authorised absence.”

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