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Student-led walkouts over Israel-Hamas war held in Toronto


Several student-led walkouts over the Israel-Hamas war were held at a number of Toronto schools on Thursday.

At Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute, scores of students carried Palestinian flags and signs called out the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) 's "active silencing and exclusion of Palestinian support."

"There are innocent Israelis that have been killed, but it's important for the TDSB and as well for the Government of Canada to recognize there are innocent Palestinians that have been killed in a public statement," one student told CTV News Toronto.

The demonstrations involved some students wearing Palestinian scarves (Keffiyehs), as well as cultural music and poetry.

In a statement sent out to media ahead of the walkout, student groups supporting Palestinians said they feel compelled to speak out about the situation to address what's happening in Gaza, anti-Palestinian racism and a "surge" of Islamophobia in Canada.

"The primary objective of our protest is to condemn the senseless loss of innocent lives in the current world climax," the student groups wrote.

They issued a list of requests from the school administration around how Palestinian students are treated, mirroring those issued by another group which held a news conference Wednesday, and how they would like to see Palestinian issues discussed in schools.

Meanwhile, the TDSB said it was aware of the planned walkouts.

"It is our understanding that the walkouts are being organized by students in support of Palestinians," the TDSB said in a statement issued Thursday morning. "The TDSB is not involved in organizing these walkouts, nor are we in a position to permit them or stop them from occurring.

"While we recognize that students want to express themselves individually and collectively, it is critical that they do so in constructive, respectful and responsible ways. Any participating students are being advised to hold any walkout/protests off school property."

The TDSB added that staff will be outside the schools to support the safety of anyone involved in protests and that police may also be on site at schools where needed "to assist with managing traffic and ensuring community safety."

Jewish groups have also expressed fear and concern over how the latest war may affect students, with anti-Semitic graffiti found at Danforth Collegiate earlier this week.

A man and two teenagers were also charged with mischief, intimidation and threatening violence after showing up at a Jewish high school nearly two weeks ago after the conflict erupted.

Speaking with CP24 Wednesday, Noah Shack of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should not be "litigated" in Toronto schools.

The TDSB had previously said that it was concerned about how the war may be impacting multiple communities within the board and that it is focusing on the mental health of students and staff.

"We are committed to providing a safe, inclusive, and supportive learning environment. This includes providing students with access to professional support services and resources as needed," the board said. "We recognize that students who are not participating in the walkout may be impacted and staff will be supporting and checking in with these students and providing additional supports as needed."

- with files from CTV Toronto's Janice Golding Top Stories

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