1,300 students sign up for walkout

1,300 students sign up for walkout

Ontario teachers mistreated, organizer claims

More than 1,300 high school students in the local public board are indicating they’ll walk out of classes Wednesday to protest how their teachers are being treated by the McGuinty government.

“With the legislation that they introduced, they basically took the teacher’s right to strike away so that they would face legal action if they do decide to strike, but students can’t face legal action for striking,” said Jacob Lapointe, the Grade 11 Massey high school student organizing the demonstration.

“Sure, we could get in trouble or we could get detention or suspended, but that’s not that big of a deal, really.”

A two-year wage freeze and a limit to teachers’ sick day and collective bargaining rights has been imposed by the passage of Bill 115: Putting Students First Act.

Lapointe said he had originally drafted a plan to have just Massey students walk out of class Wednesday and sent a Facebook notification to around 50 of his classmates. Within hours, more than 200 students — some of whom attend other public high schools in the area — had responded that they would be participating. That’s when he expanded the event and renamed it the Windsor-Essex GECDSB Student Walk-out.

As of Sunday, 1,307 students affirmed on Facebook that they would be participating.

“What I’m hoping is going to happen is that I get enough students from each school to walk out that it gets noticed,” said Lapointe. “Usually, you would think of students as people who don’t really have a voice, and so the government probably doesn’t really consider us to be a threat to them. “So we’re trying to tell them that yes, we do support our teachers, and yes, we do have a voice.”

The plan is to wear all black and walk out of class at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, said Lapointe. He said students will be gathering on the front lawns of their schools until at least the end of the school day, and hopefully even later. He said students are encouraged to make signs, and his will most likely read, “Kill the Bill.”

Helga Bailey, chairwoman of the Greater Essex County District School Board, said the fact that the demonstration is taking place during school hours is not appropriate.

“I understand the students’ concerns, but I don’t believe taking time out of their school day is a productive way to demonstrate their frustrations,” said Bailey. “Our students have every right to do what they wish during their own hours.”

Lapointe said he realizes he may get into trouble for planning the protest during school hours but that it’s worth it because he strongly believes in the cause.

“Teachers are very important to us — they help us out a lot,”Lapointe said. “If we need help tutoring or something, they’re always there for us every time. and they’re not required to do that, and they’re also not required to do sports teams, so at any point they could decide they don’t really want to do any of that.”

He said if he gets suspended, he’ll “probably tell them thanks for suspending me for supporting you, it’s kind of ironic.”

Unions have called on teachers in the public board to cancel all extracurricular activities on specific work-to-rule days as a means to protest.

Lapointe said he’s reached about 7,500 students through Facebook and he is still waiting for replies from about 6,000.

Oct 1 2012   The Windsor Star   REBECCA WRIGHT