September 25, 2012

Wave of high school protest sweeps Ontario in support of teachers

PV Ontario Bureau 

Ontario high school students are answering the passing of the McGuinty Liberal’s “Put Student’s First Act” or Bill 115 with a wave of walk-outs and protests across the province.

Students in multiple high schools have walked out in large and small communities. New reports have been filed from Toronto, Richmond Hill, Mississauga, Brampton, Bluewater, Georgian Bay, Owen Sound, Goderich, Wingham, Flesherton, Clarington, Kingston, the Kwartha Lakes, the Quinte region, and Ottawa – easily totaling over ten thousand students.

The actions overwhelmingly appear to have been in support of the teachers with students waving signs like “Your child’s future was the first to go with budget cuts,” “Putting students first means putting teachers first,” and “Democracy Last Act, Bill 115.” In some cases the students headed down to the local office of their Member of Provincial Parliament and staged rallies.

Many of the actions have been organized by social media. “The students are walking in support of teachers who are upset about their right to bargain and the withdrawal of extracurricular activities. The support and effort teachers give to students through education and especially their dedication to extracurriculars is beyond that call of duty, and that’s why students are walking out in support of teachers,” one pro-walkout Facebook group description said.

Speaking at a meeting of the Toronto Young Communist League, Ontario YCL organizer Drew Garvie held up an article from a newspaper report on the student protests and pointed out that the photo – which showed Stop Bill 115 signs – was the opposite from the anti-teacher message of the accompanying article.

High school students are already getting in touch with student unions and other progressive organizations including the YCL, he said.  “This is an attack on the entire education system and it is important for college and university students, and young workers in general, to be in support of these actions,” Garvie said.

The Ontario YCL is issuing a statement, which will be available on the YCL’s website and Rebel Youth blog, calling for “high school and elementary students to rise up in support of our teachers” and force the repeal of Bill 115. “Teachers working conditions are students learning conditions,” the statement says.

“Education is not a business opportunity to make profit, it is the right of the youth, and a keystone in securing our future.  Another vital necessity for quality education is the right of teachers to form, participate, and be represented by their labour unions,” the statement says.

“The government is telling everyone a Big Lie. They say there is no money, and no alternative to Bill 115’s anti-union measures. But Ontario is a province with tremendous natural wealth, a surplus of the super-rich, and many giant corporations and banks -- controlling all of the wealth.  In their shadow stand our hospitals, transit system, and schools that remain underfunded and neglected by the government. Who made the crisis in education? It wasn’t the teachers or the students – it was government policies which pay no serious regard to people’s needs, only corporate greed,” the statement says.

The YCL is fully supporting the student walk-outs and calling for them to spread. “When injustice becomes the law, resistance becomes a duty [...] Organizing a walk out can be done quickly and successfully using social media, word of mouth, defiance, courage and unity. Convince your friends. Convince your class. March through the halls and hit the streets!  You can suspend one student, but you cannot suspend hundreds.”

So far there have been no reports of students being disciplined because they participated in protests.

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