Students protest cancelled extracurricular activities
Published Thursday, September 13, 2012 12:24PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 13, 2012 8:30PM EDT
Sports and other extracurricular activities have been cancelled in at least one southern Ontario school on Thursday, after several teacher unions threatened retribution over new legislation that froze wages and blocked the right to vote.
Notices posted at the Stephen Lewis Secondary School in Vaughan, Ont., stated that activities, including cricket, basketball, cross country running and tennis, had been cancelled at the organizing teachers’ discretion.
Scores of students gathered at noon on Thursday to protest the cancellations, chanting “We want sports,” and expressing their frustration over the battle between teachers and the Ontario government.
“We are the ones caught in the middle and we didn’t do anything,” one student told CTV Toronto. “Why are teachers taking it out on us?”
Another student said it was a sad day at the school for both students and staff.
“We’re all very upset, everyone is,” said the student. “Everyone has been walking down the hall, they’re upset and teachers are upset.”
Three teacher unions warned that members could cancel voluntary activities to protest anti-strike legislation passed on Tuesday that also froze wages for the next two years.
Speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park Thursday, Education Minister Laurel Broten said she was disappointed in the Vaughan teachers’ decision, saying that teachers should keep their dispute with the government, not with students.
“Our decisions, as a government, have been to put students first, to keep dollars in the classrooms and in continuing to invest in public education, keeping our teachers there, employed and focused on student success,” she said. “That’s what I’m asking teachers to do. I am extremely disappointed by early indications of what is transpiring.”
Premier Dalton McGuinty also said teachers shouldn’t pull out of extracurricular activities over their anger at the government.
“I think Ontario teachers are professionals and they’ll always do what they think is right,” McGuinty said.
A spokesperson for the York school board said teachers’ participation in sports and other activities have always been voluntary.
Students also expressed their frustration with the situation in Ottawa, where high school students dressed in school colours and rallied by the hundreds to protest the potential cancellation of extracurricular activities at their school.
“We’re protesting that students are stuck in the crossfire between the government and the union at the moment, and this is not OK,” said Ottawa Grade 11 student Cassidy McCormick.
McCormick said that extracurricular activities were important for students who were hoping to get into colleges and universities on scholarship.
Students were also concerned that teachers would not be providing extra match or science help outside the classroom.
With files from CTV Toronto's John Musselman and Paul Bliss and CTV Ottawa’s Catherine Lathem