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Activism In The Classroom: WA State Teacher Recruited Students to Progressive Causes and Campaigns

A teacher in Washington State used her classroom to recruit students to progressive causes and campaigns last spring according to an exclusive report from the Jason Rantz Show.

Emily Pinckney, a marine biologist and environmental justice activist in the Puget Sound, taught an “Environmental and Social Justice” course to high school juniors and seniors last spring at several Tacoma specialty schools.

Those schools included the Science and Math Institute (SAMI), the School of the Arts (SOTA), and the School of Industrial Design Engineering and Art (IDEA).

“I specifically am working on the New Green Deal with Washington state,” Pinckney told her students. “So especially for young folks who want the opportunity to work on some policy during this time, please email me.”

“It’ll be really fun and exciting,” she continued. “There’s a lot of people who are going to be running for Washington state Senate who support the New Green Deal that’ll be looking for interns. Whether that’s people to help with the community outreach side or whether that’s people to help with these campaigns.”

Pinckney is known as a “New Green Deal activist” in the community, and has been campaigning for Washington state Senate candidate T’wina Nobles, a progressive focused on environmental justice.

Pinckney was brought on as an adjunct professor but, according to Rantz, “It’s not even clear if Pinckney has training in teaching high school classes.” Rather, she is known in the area for her environmental and political work.

The Tacoma School District, however, defended Pinckney in a statement to the Jason Rantz Show:

“This is an environmental justice class, remember. The instructor mentioned opportunities for students to extend their learning – if they choose.”

Pinckney used her course as an opportunity to push other progressive agendas outside of the environment as well. In one presentation, she addressed the “environmental injustices and human rights violations” at the Northwest Detention Center.

She spoke of ICE’s targeting of minority communities and people of color and how their detention in the Puget Sound is an “environmental injustice” because the land is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis. (The last significant earthquake to hit the region was the 2001 Nisqually Quake. Since then, seismic activity has been relatively quiet).

Pinckney spoke of the structural, systemic, and systematic “forms of oppression” used by ICE in targeting specific populations and asked her students about alternatives during COVID-19 to extended detention: “Is there a safe alternative to court hearings? Another suggestion has been, should ICE just let people go during this time?”

She referred her students to a Time Magazine article advocating for flexible bonds and early release to mitigate the spread of COVID.

During early response to COVID in the spring, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee commuted the sentences of 1,000 prisoners who had committed non-violent, non-sexual crimes to reduce the number of inmates in facilities. There have been community calls for more releases to be made.

Pinckney did not respond to a request for a statement from the Jason Rantz Show.

The course was a one-time offer and the Tacoma School District does not have any current plans to bring Pinckney back to teach another course.

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