Big deal

BVSD students win first-in-the-nation Green New Deal resolution

Students attend a meeting of the Boulder Valley School District Board of Education on Nov. 28, 2023. Courtesy: Emma Weber

For the past nine months, I’ve been building a movement of students fighting for climate justice. After talking with hundreds of students, gathering over 1,300 petition signatures and speaking at eight school board meetings, we just won a groundbreaking piece of legislation: The Green New Deal for BVSD. This makes our district the first in the nation to pass the Green New Deal for Schools, an initiative created by the Sunrise Movement.

This legislation is also a federal bill. At the national level, the Green New Deal for Schools is a visionary policy that would transform our schools to face the climate crisis and invest in Black, brown and working-class communities. It calls for safe and clean buildings, free and healthy lunches, pathways to green jobs, climate curriculum and climate disaster plans.

The specific resolution the BVSD school board passed commits to communicating climate disaster plans to students, parents, staff and the community, implementing pathways to green jobs, working toward free RTD bus passes for all middle and high school students and working with students for future climate action plans. It also calls on the state for climate action, specifically in schools, and calls on Congress and the president to pass the Green New Deal for Public Schools Act.

Fairview High School, where I go to school, is in the 99th percentile for fire risk, making this policy especially important. As climate disasters become more severe and more frequent due to climate change, it is vital that our community is prepared. 

The Marshall Fire and the NCAR Fire exposed the inadequacy of our school districts’ communication of emergency plans. When myself and other students were told to evacuate, we felt unequipped. 

Schools are meant to prepare young people for life beyond high school. If they neglect to teach us the truth about the climate crisis — the largest issue my generation faces — then schools are falling short of their purpose. We deserve schools that equip us to live with and address the climate crisis.

When I first started fighting for the Green New Deal for Schools, it was with two other students, a notebook and what some called an unrealistic amount of hope. I was hopeful that students could make real change, but more than that, I truly believed our generation could rise to face the climate crisis and that our advocacy could reshape the way our country works. 

There were many times over the past nine months where I doubted myself and questioned whether we could actually win this resolution. There were even more times when people told me to stop spending so much time on activism and focus on school instead. But I committed myself to this movement, and I didn’t let my own doubt or others’ opinions dissuade me.

At the Nov. 28 school board meeting when our resolution was being voted on, 70 people from our movement showed up. Students from five different schools in BVSD gave public comment, and the school board unanimously passed the resolution. 

This win is concrete evidence that as students, we can and will make an impact, especially when it comes to climate justice. For the first time, I feel that my advocacy is not only impacting the people around me, but the legislation that shapes our society.

When it comes to facing the climate crisis, there is a terrifying amount of transformation that needs to happen. But winning this resolution affirmed something I’ve always believed: young people are powerful, we deserve to be heard, and when we come together, we can win real change. 

Across the country, we are organizing and mobilizing in record numbers for the climate movement, and we will keep advocating until we see action that addresses the climate crisis at the scale and speed that science and justice demand.

Emma Weber is a junior at Fairview High School and a leader of the Sunrise Movement hub in Boulder.