Santa Monica High Students Get Divestment Resolution Passed

On November 16, 2020, students from Team Marine, a service club at Santa Monica High School, succeeded in getting a resolution passed by the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association  (SMMCTA) to ask CalSTRS to divest from the billions it has invested in fossil fuels. This win was especially significant because Santa Monica High School is the employer of Harry Keiley, CalSTRS’ Board Chair.

Members of Team Marine first learned about the issues, then they circulated a petition and got over a thousand signatures from teachers and students. Finally, students Jackson Yassin, Catherine Todd, Daniel Thurmond, and Isabel Homberg made a presentation to the union chapter. After all their good preparation, the vote was an easy one. The resolution passed unanimously.

Santa Monica Malibu Classroom Teachers Association

According to their press release, to support their presentation, Team Marine built interactive maps to demonstrate the negative impacts of oil refineries and wells on human health. Team Marine was greatly concerned with local injustices committed by the fossil fuel industry regarding their role in increased respiratory illnesses, birth defects, and water contamination. As an investor in fossil fuel companies such as Chevron and Exxon, who own the Torrance and El Segundo refineries, CalSTRS is contributing to the continued impairment of Californians’ health.

Every year the student club, Team Marine, picks an environmental project where they think they can make a significant difference. Past projects have included a local plastic bag ban and the statewide plastic bag ban. Team Marine is run by students and mentored by Ben Kay. Ben connected the student leaders with Fossil Free California to help them develop their strategy. 

Team Marine students aren’t done with CalSTRS divestment yet. They plan to work with students from other districts to get more CTA locals to pass similar resolutions. CalSTRS Board President Harry Keiley is a Santa Monica High School faculty member. Team Marine is hoping to meet with Keiley and ask him to use his position of power to put fossil fuel divestment on the CalSTRS board agenda. CalSTRS has refused to put fossil fuel divestment on the agenda for public discussion, and so their reasons for continuing to lose money in this dying sector remain a mystery.