Ontario high school students walk out over curriculum
High school students across Ontario have walked out of school Friday to protest changes to sex education and Indigenous curriculum.
The effort is being called the March for Our Education. Students, teachers and staff at more than 100 Ontario high schools – projected to number about 40,000 – are expected to take part.
By mid-afternoon Friday, the hashtag WetheStudentsDoNotConsent was trending on Twitter.
“I knew I wanted to empower students across Ontario because I knew there are so many kids that feel outrage about this and feel alienated and scared. I knew I had to do something that everyone could feel a part of because not everyone has the privilege or ability to attend protests or demonstrations,” student organizer Indygo Arscott told CTV News Channel Friday.
She said sex ed curriculum should help students to avoid making mistakes or putting themselves in danger.
“Students deserve the accurate representation and education in their classrooms. I know way too many people whose entire education about their sexual health comes from the internet and I don’t think that’s OK.”
Organizers also plan a student-led sit-in at Queen’s Park on Sunday.
“We the students will show our government that we do not consent to their actions. The impacts of these changes have been repeated by hundreds of experts: they will not keep our students, our women, our LGBTQ+ community, or our Indigenous population safe,” says a guide for students issued by organizers.
“It’s time for all students to stand up and fight for our right to education. We the students will walk out, protest, and demand the reinstatement of the 2015 sex ed curriculum and re-establishment of the indigenous curriculum rewrite. We the students will not stop. We will not relent. Not until we win this fight.”
Premier Doug Ford’s government has repealed a 2015 rewrite of the sex ed curriculum and reinstated the 1998 version while it prepares its own program. The 2015 curriculum, which covers same-sex marriage, gender identity, consent and sex in a social media age, was a controversial touchstone during the election campaign. Social conservatives vigorously objected to elements of the curriculum for elementary students, including homosexuality and masturbation.
Ford has enacted a snitch line to report teachers who continue to teach the 2015 content.
The administration has also cancelled a rewrite of the Indigenous studies curriculum that was recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation report.
“I think it’s really important for people to see how important this is to us as students because we are the ones who ultimately suffer from this change,” said one student who participated.
Student organizer Firuza Huseynova said while teachers and administrators were broadly supportive, there was some student backlash to the walkout at her Toronto school. “A lot of people were saying LGBTQ+ awareness is sort of being forced into students through this curriculum. We really wanted to bring that to light and we wanted to address that.”
Some GTA schools projected close to 90 per cent participation in the walkout and organizers are saying that “with the full backing of teachers’ unions and school staff associations, teachers and principals at schools registered for the walkout have even taken the action of moving all major tests and assignments from this Friday to the following Monday to accommodate the school walkouts.”
Ryan Bird, a spokesman for the Toronto District School Board, said Friday that while the student walkouts aren't officially sanctioned, the board wants to make sure everyone who takes part is safe so staff will be onhand to supervise the protests.
"We encourage them to have their say," he said, adding that in spite of the encouragement, students who leave class without permission from a parent will be marked absent.
The province is launching public consultations on a new sex-ed curriculum next week, and a spokeswoman for the education minister said she encouraged people to participate.
-With files from The Canadian Press
i am incredibly proud of my generation today & every student who took a stand. today was a reminder of the immense power we as youth possess and how incredible we are when we stand as one. thank you for your courage, your drive & your activism. #WeTheStudentsDoNotConsent— Elyssa Bush (@elyssabushh) September 21, 2018
Daughter Ruth's helping organize a student walkout at her school tomorrow to protest Conservative government. We're making buttons for the walkout at @ShawnMenard1's office tonight. #WeTheStudentsDoNotConsent #ottvotes #ottpoli pic.twitter.com/am9wwUaSYl— Morgan Gay (@Morgan_Gay) September 21, 2018
i’m so proud because tomorrow the #WeTheStudentsDoNotConsent movement is happening and i’m just so proud of my generation <333— mia (@needsomebodynow) September 20, 2018
For the sake of LGBT+ students, for First Nations students, and for every student to grow up with the knowledges we all deserve #WeTheStudentsDoNotConsent
we are ignoring the right of every child to the information she/he/they need to make informed and healthy sexual decisions, protect themselves from harm,and build relationships free from discrimination and violence. this is a matter of human rights and #WeTheStudentsDoNotConsent— Dakota Livingston (@dakotakprdsb) September 21, 2018
— Alex Herbert (@angela_herbert0) September 20, 2018