york memoriał collegiate institute

Teachers no longer want to work at Toronto high school and students are furious

Tensions between students and teachers at one Toronto high school reached a boiling point on Friday, resulting in a staged walkout by students and community members amid allegations of racism, unsafe learning environments, and over-policing.

The controversy revolved around York Memorial Collegiate Institute, located at Keele and Eglinton, and involved over a dozen teachers who refused to work at the school due to a variety of safety issues. 

According to a Ministry of Labour report obtained by the Toronto Star, teachers cited numerous concerns as reasons for their work refusal including:

  • drug use
  • frequent fights in washrooms
  • students riding scooters in hallways
  • verbal harassment 
  • lack of hall monitors
  • crowded hallways
  • disruptive behaviour
  • inability to identify students wearing balaclavas
  • faulty school cameras and phones. 

The work refusal by teachers at the school was preceeded by an Oct. 28 fight between students, which led to the police being called.

Over a dozen teachers then engaged in a work refusal, but were ordered back to work by the Ministry of Labour shortly after. 

Students at the secondary school have also expressed their fair share of concerns, including the frequency of cancelled classes due to staff shortages, which often results in them being sent to the cafeteria or library instead. 

"I don't see the news talking about the racial aspect of it all," one student told CP24 at the protest. "I go to the hallway and I see about 50 hall monitors on pay roll, but when I go to the bathroom there's no supplies, there's no toilet paper."

Other facility issues highlighted by both students and teachers included rooms undergoing construction filled with garbage, classrooms without working locks, and a gym that was essentially used as a storage space. 

Many students also complained that the unsafe learning environment was causing their academics to suffer.

On Friday, over 300 students staged a walkout of the school, and eventually made their way on foot to protest in front of the closest TDSB office. 

Lots of students held up signs expressing their frustrations, with one reading, "if you cared we wouldn't be here." 

The troubles at the secondary school began back in 2019, when a fire destroyed the former building and resulted in the merging of George Harvey Collegiate Institute and York Memorial.

The change brought in rougly 1,300 students under one roof, in a building that still had to address a plethora of facility and administrative issues. 

As a result of the ongoing tensions and protest, the Ministry of Labour has ordered York Memorial to complete a "workplace violence risk assessment" by Dec. 9. 

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