ontario student walkout

Ontario government accuses teachers of organizing massive student protest

Students from more than 700 elementary and high schools across Ontario came together on Thursday afternoon in protest of recent cuts made to their education system by Doug Ford's PC government.

Organized almost entirely online by young activists, the student walkout saw an estimated 100,000 people participate, many of them with custom protest signs and powerful uniting chants.

The #StudentsSayNo movement aims to keep class sizes from growing any bigger, to save thousands of teachers' jobs, to restore some $1.4 billion in funding for textbooks, computers and classroom supplies and to reverse the in-class cell phone ban, among other things.

We know this because the students have been vocal in their demands both on social media and in real life.

Just a quick scroll through the student-created "Official Walkout Organizer's Guide" shows how serious these young citizens are about opposing the cuts and how hard they've been working to save their own futures.

But the government doesn't appear to be listening.

Instead of hearing what the students are literally screaming at them, Ford's PC government is dismissing yesterday's walkout as teachers playing "political games."

"Today is a disappointing day for Ontario's parents and students," reads a statement from Education Minister Lisa Thompson posted to the government's website last night.

"On a day when we reached out to begin good-faith consultations with Ontario's teachers, we instead are seeing Ontario teachers' unions condoning a student walkout at schools across the province."

Thompson goes on to say that she is "concerned" the walkout may have been organized by teachers' unions.

"Instead of focusing on political stunts, I encourage the unions to instead work cooperatively with us on the real challenges facing Ontario's education system," she wrote. "Over half of Ontario's sixth grade students are failing to meet an acceptable standard on their math tests. The teachers' unions have offered no solutions to the math crisis."

"Instead of focusing on math — they are now enabling students to skip classes," said Thompson of Ontario's teachers. "And even when students are in class, too many teachers are choosing to use students as a captive audience for their union's political agenda.

The Minister of Education vowed in her statement that she would not be distracted from "making the necessary reforms" Ontario needs to better teach children math, science and financial literacy, noting that that the government just passed legislation to make teachers pass mandatory math tests in order to be certified.

She also encouraged all school boards to discipline teachers who condoned or participated in the April 4 province-wide walkout.

"In the private sector, people know that if you skip work without justification, you don't get paid," she said. "And I want everyone in Ontario to know that we are prepared to take action to give parents peace of mind that no one will use our children as a captive audience or bargaining chip as part of their union's political games."

Parents are anything but disappointed in their educators or kids for supporting the movement, however, if comments on Twitter are any indication.

"I think we'll be seeing many, in fact thousands of 'disappointed' teachers and parents on Saturday," wrote one local mother of four. "And it won't be because students walked out. They're coming for you Doug because you came for us and our kids first."

"Nonsense pedalled by Lisa Thompson," wrote someone else in response to the minister's statement. "Protests were organized by social media savvy student activists."

"They assert that the government is not listening to them," continued Alyce Dunnewold. "Thompson's remarks show they're right. The government won't even acknowledge the students' voice."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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