Students across Brantford were met with honks of support from passing cars on Monday morning as they stood outside their respective schools in protest of Bill 115.
Students at Brantford Collegiate Institute, Tollgate Technological Skills Centre, North Park Collegiate and Pauline Johnson Collegiate walked out of class to show solidarity with teachers in their fight against Bill 115, as well as express anger at a union decision to boycott extracurricular activities.
“It’s about standing up for ourselves and our staff and administration,” said Grade 10 BCI student Travis Swift. “I want to see a change. I don’t want to see this bill go into effect and affect our teachers and us. We want to take a stand and stop this from happening.”
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation announced last week that teachers and support staff at public high schools across the province would boycott extracurricular activities – including clubs, sports, plays and field trips – in protest over Bill 115.
Also known as the Putting Students First Act, Bill 115 will give the education minister the power to impose contracts on teachers and support staff after Dec. 31.
The bill is currently being challenged in the courts by education unions.
It is unclear how long the boycott will last, but representatives from the OSSTF say if their efforts are unsuccessful the union will ask its members to endorse additional political action on Dec. 17, which will include a one-day walk out.
At all schools, students said they hoped their protests would bring attention to the fight against Bill 115, but also demonstrate the affect it’s having.
“It’s aggravating,” said Grade 12 Tollgate student J.P. Sage. “This is our last year and the sports we want to do will be cut.”
Tollgate’s students are particularly concerned about the loss of Camp Fawcett, a work experience camp for students that has run every year for the past three decades.
“The camp is the highlight of the year,” Sage said.
North Park Collegiate principal Phil Midgley expressed his respect for students’ right to protest.
“I encourage students to do research and make sure they have a clear position on the issue,” Midgley said. “I think it’s important the students have a voice, but they need to be clear they have a point to express and they are doing it in a positive way.”
School council presidents from public schools across Brantford and Brant will be joining together later this week to speak with Brant MPP Dave Levac about the issue.