Thousands of students at public high schools across the province walked out of their classrooms Monday in protest of Ontario’s Bill 115, Putting Students First Act.
High School students took to social media websites over the weekend to coordinate simultaneous protests across the province.
Glendale High School in Tillsonburg and Valley Heights Secondary School, south of Langton, were two local schools taking part.
“We’re supporting them (teachers) because they are supporting us as much as they can - that’s what we like to believe,” said Grade 13 student at Valley Heights, Karly Johnson.
The OSSTF recently stated that teachers would withdraw from extracurricular activities as of Monday, December 10. Teachers would show up 15 minutes before their shift starts and leave immediately after school as their next step in job action against Bill 115.
The province wide protests began at 9:30 a.m. Monday and at Valley Heights approximately 300 students marched onto school grounds with signs in hand and plenty of enthusiasm to speak out against Bill 115.
“Our message is to the government about Bill 115, Putting Students First Act. The bill states that it doesn’t let teachers go on strike and they no longer have the privilege to negotiate their own contract, which not only affects the teachers. in the long run affects the schools,” said Grade 13 student Meaghan Szucs. “The teachers are only coming out from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. now and they won’t do extracurricular activities, so we are out here from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today supporting what we believe is right for our extracurricular activities and supporting the teachers,” she added.
Valley Heights students agreed that while they are supporting their teachers and protesting Bill 115, it is unfortunate that they are the ones who often pay the price when the province and teachers cannot see eye to eye.
“I’m out here today because they took away our Christmas concert,” said Grade 10 student Symone Roberts. “We’ve been preparing music for it since September and it was for marks so we don’t get those marks for our school year.”
The current work to rule campaign by Ontario’s teachers is not only affecting sports such as volleyball and soccer, but is also affecting smaller clubs and organizations at local high schools throughout Ontario.
“We have a Sign Language club at our school and since last semester we’ve had a student, her name is Ester – and she has an interpreter, her name is Ms. Powell,” added Johnson. “We’ve been learning sign language but we no longer have that privilege to learn or to even try. We’re also suffering educationally because there is no help – there’s no help after school if you fail a test, there’s no anything,” she explained.
“So in any sense that we would need the help of a teacher outside of school time, we just don’t have that help anymore.”
Despite the uncertainty, Szucs and other students at Valley Heights will continue to show their support for teachers, and are trying to remain optimistic that a solution to can eventually be found.
“I think if they (the teachers) realize that we are supporting them, we understand that they really have no control over it and they’re just doing what’s best for them,” said Szucs. “I think in the end, it’ll pull through and our message will be heard.”
-with files from Sarah Doktor