B.C. school districts are warning students not to stage a walkout Wednesday, amid student plans to protest the long-running dispute between the province's teachers and government.
B.C.'s 41,000 teachers began staging rotating one-day strikes affecting every district in the province last week. A partial lockout notice from the government also restricts the time teachers can spend at schools during non-teaching hours.
The B.C. Student Walkout for Students is slated to start as early as 9 a.m. PT on Wednesday — the only day this week when strike action is not planned — but it is not known how large or small the protest could be.
- SCHEDULE B.C. teachers' strike and lockout - Week 2
- ANSWERS B.C. teachers' strike and lockout: 8 things you need to know
- ANALYSIS Same rhetoric but different rules in this B.C. teachers' strike
North Vancouver School District has already issued a letter to parents, saying it is aware the labour dispute has caused widespread frustration, but students' safety must come first.
"Unsupervised activities such as walkouts place students at risk and are disruptive to learning and to the school community at large," writes superintendent John Lewis.
"Students who do not report to their scheduled class will be marked as absent and are responsible for any missed work and assignments."
School District 42, covering Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, have also sent out a letter warning parents that walkout activities are not sanctioned by the school or district.
"While we are responsible for the safety of students on school property, student safety cannot be guaranteed for students participating in walkout activities outside school property, even if those activities take place during school hours," said the letter.
"We strongly encourage students not to participate in the walkout, both to ensure their own safety and to avoid adding further unnecessary and unproductive disruptions to their learning during this already difficult dispute."
Vancouver School Board has also weighed in. Public relations manager Kurt Heinrich told the CBC anyone who leaves class will be marked as absent.
"We understand that parents and students are feeling the pressures from this labour disruption and the issues that are ongoing in terms of the provincial bargaining situation," said Heinrich.
"And we would encourage parents if they have any concerns to have a conversation with their child and discuss the issue."
'Like parents who are divorcing'
The B.C. Student Walkout for Students is being organized through a Facebook event page hosted by students Victoria Barker and Mackenzie Timko, who have also set up a Twitter feed.
18-year-old Barker attends Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary in Surrey and says the entirety of her academic life has been lived in the shadow of the battle between teachers and government warring, supposedly in her interest.
"There's just so many of us that are fed up with the dispute," she said. "If they were really doing this for us, then the lockout wouldn't have been imposed and the strikes wouldn't be occurring."
Barker's Facebook event page explains they are planning to take action to tell both the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the provincial government that students feel trapped in the middle of the dispute.
"The two sides are like parents who are divorcing and have stuck their children in the middle for the last thirteen years," she writes on the Facebook page.
"Each side claims to be 'fighting for the students' yet each side fails to show how they are doing so."
Barker argues the rotating strikes by the teachers' union means less time spent in school, and graduating students need that extra prep for exams and university requirements.
But she's also upset by the B.C. government's partial lockout of teachers, saying they can't get help from instructors at recess or lunch and limited time before and after school.
Despite the warnings from school districts, Barker says she's not worried.
"It's great to be able to finally show them that we're frustrated and to have the support of the rest of the province," said Barker.
Meanwhile, the B.C. Labour Relations Board is expected to issue a ruling today on the government's decision to cut teachers pay by 10 per cent during the partial lockout.
The BCTF and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association are also expected to spend three days at the negotiating table this week.
The teachers and the provincial government are divided over wages, class size and composition. Teachers are asking for a 15.9 per cent increase over four years. Government is offering 7.25 per cent over six years plus a signing bonus.