High-school students walk out against education cuts

Students from Parkdale Collegiate Institute make it clear they care about their education

Updated on Friday with comments from the Minister of Education. 

Frank Hong, co-executive director for March for Our Education, said in a statement that over 200,000 students all across the province participated in the #StudentsSayNo Walkout in response to the changes by Premier Doug Ford.

Education cuts announced by Ford on March 15 included increased class sizes, a cell-phone ban and mandatory online courses.

“I feel hyped up. I’m feeling a bit tired now, I was yelling a lot.” said Odessa Hewitt-Bernhard, grade 11 student and organizer for Parkdale Collegiate Institute’s (PCI.) walkout.They were motivated to take it a step further after hearing the neighboring school’s rally as they passed PCI.

“We had a lot of momentum and we weren’t quite sure where to go,” Hewitt-Bernhard said of her group who found themselves along Queen Street but then decided to go to Queens Park.

“We passed by a few other schools and it was great. We gave high-fives and we started chanting together,” she said.

According to Hewitt-Bernhard, the walkout was made up of students from all grades.

Hewitt-Bernhard also feels that the four mandatory online courses put forward will “limit one-on-one time with teachers and unfairly privileges people who have access to computers and the internet.”

She started planning a week ago after seeing an Instagram campaign.”It’s been really really fast,” she said laughing.

“Walking out like this, we’re saying ‘no’ to that (budget cuts). We’re saying, ‘yes we care’. We value ourselves, and we value our future,” said Hewitt-Bernhard firmly.

“We need to show him our point of view,” said Michael Cotter, grade eleven student at PCI who has special needs.

However, following the protests, Minister of Education Lisa Thompson issued a statement, blaming the teachers unions for “enabling students to skip classes.”

“And even when students are in class, too many teachers are choosing to use students as a captive audience for their union’s political agenda,” she said.

High school walkout organizer Rayne Fisher-Quann replied on Twitter.

“When Ford and Thompson dismiss us as “union pawns”, the message is clear: not only do they think young people are incapable of organization, autonomy, and power, but they’re also terrified of the potential that we hold,” she said.

Cotter added that he was pleased the turnout was bigger than he expected to push for their message of disapproval to the recent budget cuts.

“We really need to fight, because a lot of us don’t have the voice to push and advocate for ourselves, so we need to scream twice as loud,” he said.

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High-school students walk out against education cuts