Montclair High School Walks Out For Climate Change

Hundreds of Montclair High School students walked out of class Friday at 10:00 am, joining students around the world participating in Fridays for Future, an international organized walkout to demand action on climate change on March 15. Here’s what it was like:

At 10:00 am, you could hear the thunder of footsteps down the halls and voices yelling “Come on!” By 10:05, many MHS students had spilled outside and into the main building’s amphitheater. A hum of soft whispers grew into a louder hum that resulted in security guards hushing students. There was an ocean of green, the designated color of attire for the walkout. Then at 10:10, it began.

A group of MHS student organizers, including Haley Winstead, Hazel Togman, Gabriella McLoughlin, and Saumaya Schneider, used bullhorns and their own loud voices to lead the event. The group began explaining how there will be serious consequences due to global warming in under 12 years. Students held signs bearing statements: “Like the ocean we rise; Our planet, our choice” and “Our house is on fire!” and “Climate change is not a lie! Do not let our planet die!” The walkout ended a little before 11:00, as most students returned to class. However, a few students decided to continue the protest by marching to the Montclair municipal building, demanding action.

Hazel Togman addresses the crowd. (photo by Haley Winstead)

How Did Students and Faculty React?

A common theme among students was the idea that the older generation had dismissed the issue and it was up to the younger generation to take action.

Lila Zimbalist, a senior, said “I just think that our generation has inherited a world that is falling apart, almost beyond repair, yet older generations seem to be ignoring the issue with a complete disregard for the future impacts that climate change will have.”

Zach Rich, a sophomore, said “It’s a shift of responsibility that I don’t want because I already have too much math homework and now I’m supposed to worry about climate change? That’s the adult’s job. I’m walking out to politely remind them to do their job, because otherwise when I can vote next year, they won’t have one.”

Mr. Anthony Grosso, the principal of Montclair High School, did not respond to a request for comment.

But Dr. Davida Harewood, a social studies teacher, said “Our system of government is based on participation at all levels. We are granted the right to ‘speak truth to power’ in our constitution. It is very encouraging to see students use their constitutional rights to bring awareness and change. I am opposed to a student being penalized for peaceful active participation in our democracy. However, it is vital that all students be educated … Therefore, I recommend that other civic actions take place outside of school time.”

What Happens Next?

Organizers encouraged students to reach out to elected officials in the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as the White House. They also invited students to join the public Facebook group for Montclair, Fridays for Future MTC. It is unclear if there will be more walkouts, but students seem passionate about addressing the issue.

The Climate Change walkout was empowering because so many students united under a common cause.

Haley Winstead, one of the organizers, said “Weather is just getting worse. It is becoming extreme, and unnatural. This is important to me because our lives and any future we are planning on having depend on us having enough support for this movement to force and enforce change internationally.”

Georgia Chen is a sophomore at Montclair High School.

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  1. Ahh, This brings back memories of walking out of school in 70’s protesting on Earth Day. Of course, at that time we were being told that we were heading towards a new ice age and we all doomed. I hope these kids are truly willing to do their part and do away with their energy sapping cell phones, lap tops, anything with a earth destroying battery, TVs, travel sports teams, etc. No one needs more than one pair of sneakers, a couple pairs of jeans, a few shirts, and of course all clothes should be line dried. I could go on and on…. if you are going to talk the talk you should walk the walk….and walk and walk and walk.

  2. Pretty funny article. The best line was about the 12 year horizon. Priceless. The “I’ve got homework..” would have been funny if real. Anyway, it was nice to see our kids still believe each generation has a unique potential. It beats the alternative.

  3. Frank…doesn’t it make you wonder if our tax dollars are being wisely spent if HS kids so quickly buy into the 12 year time line? The Nigerian scammers are going to have a field day on these kids.
    Hey Kids!… here is the lesson for the day. Follow the money! The Chicken Little timeline you are buying is coming from adults. Adults who have huge investments in “green” energy, most if not all of which is at this point very inefficient and very toxic. They are counting on you to create a change in government policy so they can reap huge profits. I believe the term for they use for your behavior is “useful idiots.” Now, I will start to worry when the wealthy/smart investors begin to downsize their lifestyles and begin to aggressively buy the farmlands of Western Canada and turn Saskatoon into Silicon Valley. Until then, party on!!

  4. I worry a little that the Toneys Brook retaining wall will not make it intact to the graduation ceremony.

    I worry a little about the orthopedic issues from the oversize backpacks these kids are shown wearing above.

    I worry a little about their lack of fashion diversity: their underdeveloped sense of color and the narrow color spectrum their dress share.

    I worry a little committing to Fridays for Fridays For Future MTC might create unnecessary, future scheduling conflicts.

    I worry a little that they are wondering around the MHS campus known for its numerous and large sustainability issues (maybe they will be identified next Friday by the freshman class). MHS is an oversized petrie dish for sustainability cause & effect.

    I have no worries that these educational cohorts will measure up to those of the 1970’s.

  5. Mr. Rubacky,

    As a matter of fact, I happen to have a lot of math homework. The only fraud here is you nominating your own house as a historical landmark; I find that pretty funny. Nonetheless, I appreciate you continuing such an important conversation.

  6. I would say Zach owes the apology. The adult makes light hearted jibe about quote in article and the sophomore calls him a “fraud” for something unrelated? Forget the math, Zach, your homework tonight is civility.

  7. lacima,

    Zach is entitled to his opinion, no? You and Frank certainly use this forum to express yours, quite often. He’s certainly entitled to defend himself. Please don’t berate the kid because your sentiment is that he’s a “whippersnapper mouthing off to an adult” Besides, I think he was being quite civil. He addressed Frank as Mr. Rubacky. Didn’t he?

  8. Most grown ups don’t consider calling someone an ugly, irrelevant name “expressing an opinion” or “defending” themselves, but every family is different.

  9. I’d say that most “grown-ups” would take what a 16 year-old says with a grain of salt. Furthermore, most “grown-ups” might reconsider engaging in a squabble such as this with a 16 year-old. However, this is just my opinion as a grown-up and I do not consider myself the voice of my demographic. Especially one as broad as an entire generation. To each his/her own, though.

  10. I think it’s time for a new video.. “When Liberals Attack” Geez, it doesn’t take much to get people in a huff. To the kid’s credit he didn’t call Frank a racist or a white supremacist though fraud is a little rough from the “no bullying” generation.
    Every town needs a gadfly and Mr. Rubacky has stepped up to fill the void. I hope he develops a thicker skin and not apologize so readily. I envision him becoming like that guy who lived on South Fullerton in what looked like a haunted house. He was a fixture at every town meeting but I can’t remember his name…surname Clark?? Maybe? Anyway, when the town made him trim his trees he put up a good fight and when he succumbed to the legal pressure he pruned his trees leaving the dead branches hanging. What a mess! That guy was a hoot! Anyone remember him?

  11. flipside,

    Are you thinking of Mr Sosman who lived on the corner of S. Fullerton & Roosevelt Pl?

  12. Yes!! Thanks Frank. I am sure he annoyed many but I enjoyed his stubborn independence. I didn’t pay much attention back then but he seemed to challenge everything so I assumed he kept things honest…or tried to.

  13. I was his neighbor for a while. The Council played hardball and designated his property as an Area in Need of Redevelopment! Thought this would make you laugh this morning.

  14. I lived near him for several years. I remember when the Council came down on him. I assumed it was a bit of revenge for his antics. I happened to walk by when he was half lopping off the branches. He told me they wanted him to beautify his property and what he was doing was beautiful to him. He wasn’t nasty about it at all, in fact he seemed quite happy exercising his rights and teaching the council a lesson in clarity. Seemed like a pretty sharp character. He would have field day with this council and planning board if he were still alive. Yes, I am smiling this morning….missing a bit of the old Montclair.

  15. Dear lacamina,
    I believe you have the wrong idea. I am in Zach Rich’s math class and we do indeed have lots of homework every night, in fact it takes me about 2 hours a night. It seems as if you spend those 2 hours typing up your responses to high school kids on a knock off Reddit. Also you took “fraud” out of context, Zach was simply making a joke towards Mr. Rubacky about his house, not the man himself. Mr. Rubacky seems like a very nice man. Please study sentence structure instead of telling Zach to study civility.

  16. Oh boy…time for some popcorn….but I grow nostalgic for the old Montclair, Mr Sosman, and when discourse was civil. I guess when you take the threat of a punch in nose out of the equation ……

  17. “A common theme among students was the idea that the older generation had dismissed the issue and it was up to the younger generation to take action.”

    This was the theme of the article and what caught my interest. Baristanet’s (est. 2004) raison d’être is feedback & discussion of hyper-local issues. I don’t have experience with Reddit.

    I was raised differently and in a different era. An apology to Mr Rich from me was in order. As such, I chose not to address his rebuttal humor. That’s his to own. But, you are incorrectly making excuses; historic houses do not perpetrate a fraud. You should let this go.

    On the constructive criticism higher ground, I would like to see MHS students address the many campus issues that would help a greener Montclair. Banning plastic straws & styrofoam, commitment to school recycling, prohibit idling engines, etc. etc. I advocate against light pollution. As seen in the photos, MHS uses unshielded, high pressure sodium flood lights to over-illuminate the grounds and buildings. I’m not saying to throw-out perfectly good light fixtures, but maybe get a school commitment to replace them with environmentally correct lamps as the HPS bulbs burn out. Let’s work on our issues.

  18. Looking at synergies without co-opting your FfFMTC platform, a great project for the MHS CGI would be to draft a 21st century municipal lighting ordinance and present it to the Council. Generic templates have been created and published to the internet. It might take 2 years, but what an experience and a legacy! Offshoot curriculum & building-specific projects could be designed for the STEAM schools.

  19. I’ve had sophomoric debates but never debated sophomores! You kids fight too dirty for me, but before I go, here’s an assignment (after math, natch, and ending global warming): read frank’s comment on Zach’s quote (which was funny btw), then reads zach’s reply to frank, then google “ad homonym.” For my part, I’ll check out that Montclair subreddit where I can discuss local affairs.

  20. The disconnect here is that most of the time, sarcastic humor translates quite poorly in text. The joke is “missed” and taken out of context with the absence of affect. Sounds like a misunderstanding that’s spiraled out of control. Anyway, Frank I agree with you about the lighting. Those old sodium bulbs are ridiculously expensive, give off an awful tone, and are a PITA to replace. I’m beginning to see LED’s going into streetlights and the difference is quite dramatic. They are bright though, so in terms of light pollution, I’m not sure there’s an improvement on that front.

  21. Pffft math homework at mhs. That’s the biggest joke here…

    If anything we should be protesting the fraud of a school we go to. (According to Montclair is the tenth highest taxed town in NJ. So, logically the highschool would be properly funded.. right?)

    4 out of the 7 stairwells have been unusable since the first week of school for a start. Don’t get me started on sanitation, soap in the bathroom is as rare as an unbiased unentitled teacher in mhs.
    Most of the kids are entitled ignoramuses, and if you’re cursed with a differing opinion or care about facts… well actually that doesn’t matter cause real discussions don’t occur here as far as I’m aware.

  22. My goodness.

    What a bunch of whiny, scared-of-their-own-mortality old coots populate this website. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    “‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.”–Tony Soprano

    Hey kids. Ignore these lonely, frightened old men.

    Better yet, keep shining your youth in their sour faces. It drives ’em crazy!!!

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