Iowa City junior high students join global push for action on climate change

Dozens of Southeast Junior High students staged walkout Friday

Students at South East Junior High marched Friday with thousands globally to demand action against climate change. (Subm
Students at South East Junior High marched Friday with thousands globally to demand action against climate change. (Submitted by Massimo Paciotto-Biggers)

At 13, Massimo Paciotto-Biggers has read about the effect carbon emissions are having on the environment.

“I would like to have a good future on earth,” the South East Junior High student said, citing dire climate forecasts made by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Disturbed by little action in Iowa City and globally to reduce carbon emissions, Massimo and his classmate Alex Howe, 13, waged a strike in front of their junior high Friday.

With signs they made earlier that morning, they convinced three students of some 810 to join their strike as school started.

By 2 p.m., another 30 would join them in a walkout and march to the Pedestrian Mall.

The Iowa City students were some of thousands globally who skipped school Friday to demand adults take action against climate change.

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg inspired and started the movement, which spurred tens of thousands to demonstrate in Berlin, Paris and London. Some 50 students protested in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York.

In the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area, district representatives for the Cedar Rapids, Marion Independent, College Community, Mount Vernon and Clear Creek Amana school districts said they were not aware of any of their students participating.


In the Iowa City Community School District — where students have held marches, protests and walkouts in the wake of the 2016 presidential election and school shootings — administrators notified families Friday morning of the planned walkout.

Students who participated were given an unexcused absence, though parents could excuse it by notifying the school.

“When a collective group, like our student body, takes interest in national topics to help make a difference in the world, we support them and want to work with them to do so in a positive and meaningful manner,” the district said in an email to families.

Massimo said he hopes his school district takes action to educate students on climate change and to shrink its own carbon footprint.

“It’s something I’m mad about — I think they should teach kids and make people more aware of climate change,” he said. “ ... And there’s no more excuses left for people not to put solar (panels) on our schools.”

The Washington Post contributed to this report.

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