Students use social media to fight for extracurricular activities
Published Wednesday, September 19, 2012 12:29PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 19, 2012 7:43PM EDT
Ontario students are turning to social media to mobilize protests after being caught in the midst of a contract battle between teachers and the government.
A series of protests have already been held at schools across the Toronto area, by students furious that extracurricular activities have been cancelled amid the simmering feud.
More demonstrations are expected to be held in coming days, with student organizers turning to Facebook and Twitter to get the word out.
Students at Richmond Green Secondary School in Richmond Hill, Ont. spread the word about a Wednesday afternoon demonstration by using the hashtag #studentmovement2012 on Twitter.
As students rallied and chanted: “We want sports!” on the school grounds during the lunch hour, they told reporters they refuse to be ignored.
“We want students to be a force to be reckoned with,” said one of the protesters, Ali Taghva. “But we want people using an organized plan.”
After spreading their message on Facebook and Twitter the students saw the protest movement grow.
“We got 3,000 people in one night and we got #studentmovement2012 trending on Twitter that night. It just went crazy, went viral,” said student Shannon Lee.
The Facebook group now has over 4,500 members and the group says it wants to spread the protests to other schools.
“Our general hope is that students stop being used as weapons,” said Taghva.
Similar protests are being planned in other schools and there is a plan to have a large protest outside Queen’s Park at the end of the month. Several schools are also planning walkouts.
A student trustee for the Toronto District School Board said he thinks the protests will work.
“I think people underestimate the power of students, and I think with this digital shift that we’ve had it’s a lot easier to organize mass scale events,” said Kourosh Houshmand.
The students say they aren’t taking sides and have even proposed a temporary solution.
They want to host extracurricular activities themselves, having parents volunteer their time and using community centres to practice.
Earlier in the month, students posted petitions online opposing the Ontario bill, which froze teacher salaries for two years and blocked the right to strike.
In response, several teachers’ unions urged their members not to participate in extracurricular activities. Sports and after-school clubs at several schools have since been cancelled for the year.
Other students have announced plans to show support for teachers at a noon-time protest at Mississauga Secondary School.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Naomi Parness