Between 60-80 Alberni District Secondary School students walked out of school an hour early in a show of solidarity to support School District 70 teachers who are poised to strike.
With the sound of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changing echoing from a boom box in the background, students left school at noon, an hour and a half before their school day was scheduled to end.
They walked along 11th Avenue carrying placards reading This Is Our Future, I Support Teachers, Negotiate Don’t Legislate and Who Cares About Us?.
The high school students marched along 11th Avenue to the new high school on Roger Street then down Roger Street to the school board office, where they stood chanting for a half hour before being told by an official inside that the police were being called.
Don’t underestimate how much students understand about the issue, or how much a small town protest can mean, organizer Jenna Comeau said.
“I’m happy with the turnout, it’s about as much as we expected and it was civil,” Comeau said. “Just because we’re doing this in a small town doesn’t mean it can’t make a difference.”
Comeau said she and others got the idea from Facebook earlier this week after seeing students in Vancouver planning a protest. “We thought ‘why not do it here’ and it just escalated,” Comeau said. “We want our teachers to know they’re not alone.”
Larger class sizes under new legislation concerns Grade 11 student Colin Simister. “There’s already 28 to 30 students in some classes and with more there’s no way teachers can possibly get to help all of us,” he said. “I’m prepared to accept any consequences for what I’m doing today too.”
Watching government deny teachers a basic right is disturbing, and is what prompted Grade 12 student Connor McDonald to participate in the protest.
“We think it’s unfair for it to be made illegal to strike,” McDonald said. “What’s the point in having that right if it’s just going to be taken away — that’s not a right, that’s a privilege.”
Police vehicles unobtrusively followed the protest and cordoned off traffic at 12th Avenue and Redford Street to allow students to pass.
There was only one incident that involved the driver of a pickup truck who stopped in the middle of the street and swore out his window at the students.