Linden students take action to support public school counterparts
Lilah, left, works on her protest signage. Sylvie, right, brought her sign from home and made her voice heard on Yonge street.
By Coco Lee
April 4th #StudentsSayNo Walkout
At 1:15 p.m. on April 4th, students in public schools across Ontario walked out of their classes in protest of the provincial government’s proposed changes to education. The #StudentsSayNo walkout was initiated by a Listowel public school student, Natalie Moore, and taken up province-wide by grassroots student organisations. As an independent school, Linden’s day-to-day will remain largely unaffected by these policy changes. Does this mean Linden students chose to ignore the protest? That they were excited for the afternoon off? Of course not.
A couple weeks ahead of the walkout, I found myself in conversations with different groups of students about solidarity, and about the power of symbolic and material acts that people in positions of power can do to support others. We talked about the power we have at Linden because of its status as an independent school and its mission as a student-centred school. Students shared that they don’t want to waste that by not standing in support of their peers. They made it clear that they weren’t prioritizing missing class, because “there’s no point in protesting Linden - we’re protesting with Linden.”
As a teacher, I’m proud of the activities proposed by our students, and inspired by how smoothly my colleagues adapted their schedules to support our plans. On very little notice, we were able to swap our period 5 courses with Thursday’s All School period so we could time our actions with the #StudentsSayNo walkout without missing classes. Teachers signed up to run four stations, between which students could move freely:
- a judgement-free discussion zone for students who dissented with Linden’s participation or who wanted to learn more,
- a collective art piece,
- a letter-writing station where students drafted letters to their MPPs
- the actual walkout, where students made signs and chanted at Yonge and Rosehill.
What we’re most proud of is not the participation in the different stations, or the fact that the whole plan was initiated by Linden students, but students’ responses to other schools’ handling of the walkouts. Linden students found out that some nearby private schools had chosen to dismiss students early rather than addressing the walkouts. When they heard this, they were upset. According to Brie, “Not because they didn’t get to have a free afternoon but because they felt other schools missed an opportunity. [They] missed an opportunity to go deeper, think critically and take a more active role in the protest. Linden students did just that by making their voices heard via social media, phone calls, letters, artwork and taking it to the streets.”
This day paved the way for the recent Day of Action on May 1st - more about that in the next newsletter.
Students making signs before taking it to the streets.
In the Art Room, Brie made space for students to contribute their own answers to the question: “What Kind of Education do we Deserve?”