Gravenhurst students walk...
Gravenhurst students walk out
Gravenhurst High School students joined the student protests taking place throughout the province to support their teachers and protest Bill 115 on Tuesday.
Gravenhurst High School students marched through town with police nearby on Tuesday to protest Bill 115 and show their support for teachers.
Photo by Jennifer Bowman
At 9:45 a.m. Tuesday morning there were 150 students, about half the school, protesting outside Gravenhurst High School in below freezing temperatures and lightly falling snow. Police kept an eye on the protest as students walked downtown with signs chanting, “Kill the bill.”
Thomas Ruttan, a Grade 11 student at Gravenhurst High School, organized the protest on Facebook.
“We’re protesting Bill 115 because it takes away teacher’s rights to go on strike and it also takes away some of their benefits,” he said. “And because the bill’s been put in place the school board’s decided to take away sports and extracurricular activities and we don’t want that, so that’s why we’re protesting.”
In fact it was the teachers who have withdrawn extracurricular activities in protest of Bill 115, as they face a two-year contract from the province that takes away their right to collective bargaining, reduces the number of sick days and takes away some of their benefits. The protests in Muskoka took place a day later than originally planned due to weather conditions and bus cancellations on Monday.
Ruttan isn’t involved in any extracurricular activities, but he’s upset that there will be no prom or semi formal.
Victoria Peirson, a Grade 10 student, is surrounded by the impact of the bill; at school her improv team won’t be able to go to Sudbury unless there’s a teacher who is able to go with them, and at home she speaks with her father who is also a teacher.
“We’re just really glad about how many people turned up and have actually educated themselves on this,” she said.
Peirson said although teachers aren’t supposed to voice their opinion on the student protest, they have been supportive.
“They made preparations and stuff because they knew we were doing it and they knew we were doing it for them,” she said
Ruttan said he has received the same support.
“All the teachers that I have talked about are glad that we’re doing it because we actually know what we’re talking about, we’re not just doing this … to skip class,” Ruttan said
Students also walked out at Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School in Bracebridge and at Muskoka Beechgrove Public School. At the the Bracebridge high school, students are concerned the indefinite suspension of extracurricular activities and sports teams will jeopardize their pathways to higher learning and scholarship opportunities.
“A lot of kids are devastated because that was their whole life. Some of the Grade 12s were relying on that for scholarships,” said school rugby team player Chris Carnduff. “That’s going to be a huge hit for them if they can’t get scholarships to go to university and stuff. If they don’t have their team they can’t show their skills and they can’t practice.”
He was joined by school hockey team member Owen Nudd, who doesn’t see himself back on the ice anytime soon. “It was just starting, and we were supposed to have a practice this Monday, but it was cancelled because of this bill thing,” he said. “I’m really upset.”
For those not participating in the one-day strike, classes still ran as usual inside the school. For video of the student protest, visit our website at cottagecountrynow.ca.
— With files from Louis Tam