Whipped up into a school spirit frenzy by their Bengal tiger mascot, Students at Sir Robert Borden High School staged a lunch time protest against Ontario’s Bill 115.
“I was thinking of starting a debate club, but then I heard how Bill 115 cuts important parts out of teacher’s wages and vacation days,” said Grade 10 student Dan Budiansky, as more than 200 of his fellow students, dressed in school colours, shouted “SRB!, SRB!” and “people, not pawns” from the school lawn.
“I joined the group students set up on Facebook to organize this protest,” he said, adding he is proud they set up the event on their own, without the help of teachers. “Extracurriculars are really important to students. Clubs help the spirit of the school.”
Budiansky said the goal of the protest wasn’t to take sides, but to represent student interests after the Ontario Secondary School Federation told unionized teachers Tuesday to end voluntary activities to protest the Students First Act. The new legislation under Bill 115 freezes teacher’s wages, bans strikes for two years and prevents them from banking sick days.
“I think it’s the provincial government, they’re the ones who started the whole thing,” said Rohini Gupta, a Grade 10 student involved in student council, key club and the multi-cultural club at Sir Robert Borden.”We the students are not a political football in a match between the government and teacher’s union.”
Basketball, soccer, rugby and track are all popular sports at the school, said students.
Registration for fall teams begins next week, said Jennifer Adams, Director of Education for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, adding parents and community coaches may be a way of filling the gap left by teachers.
“We’ve been really pleased by the interest from the students,” Adams said. “They’re supportive of their teachers.”