Respect students’ right to protest

[18 September 2019] - It has come to CRIN’s attention that some schools and local authorities in multiple countries have imposed sanctions or threatened to do so on students who wish to take part in the Fridays for Future school climate strikes. 

Ahead of the upcoming global climate strike beginning on 20 September, we call on teachers, schools, local authorities and parents to support the schoolchildren who choose to take part in the peaceful protests and who are leading by example. 

These students, who should be applauded for the courage and dedication to the biggest political challenge they are likely to face in their lifetime, have in multiple cases faced punishment for choosing to protest. After-school detention, low scores for missed tests, suspension have all been used against school strikers in Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Belgium, Canada and others for choosing to protest on school days. 

Children certainly have the right to education, but it is not their only human right. Children also have the right to freedom of expression just like anybody else, which covers the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds. They also have the right to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly. These rights unquestionably include the right to speak out and protest. Restrictions placed on the ability of children to exercise these rights interferes with the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which upholds the human rights of everyone under the age of 18. 

The CRC also sets out the aims of education for children, including the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the preparation of a child for a responsible life in a free society. A school that fully respects the education and development of children to become active and engaged members of society would support students who want to campaign about issues that are important to them. It is a short-sighted school that excludes these lessons from its curriculum by punishing students for exercising their rights in order to engage on major political issues, such as climate change, that will shape their lives and the lives of generations to come. 

The Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN body responsible for implementing the CRC, has itself applauded the children and young people taking part in the Fridays for Future protests. Several other UN human rights experts also express their gratitude to young people for their actions that are "desperately needed in today’s political climate of lassitude and decision paralysis".

Under-18s should be supported and not prevented from participating in civic life. Governments have a responsibility to act, but in the face of their inaction, young people are mobilising, and so must we. Our future depends on the actions taken today by the political class and the companies run by adults.  

Instead of punishing children for living up to the responsibility casually cast aside by adults, we should join them.


You can download this statement in English here or in French here.


For students who face punishments for protesting, use this letter template to challenge these measures in English here, French here and German here.

We are also monitoring which schools are trying to prevent students from striking. If this is happening in your case, please let us know at [email protected]


Resources

  • Challenge school punishments for joining a strike with this letter in EnglishFrench and German.