Hundreds of Hamilton high school students stage walkouts

Students at Hamilton public high schools are staging walkouts and some marched on City Hall to express their frustration about the standoff between teachers and the Ontario government.
Students at Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School in Hamilton protest the provincial Bill 115 on Monday. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

Hundreds of students at Hamilton public high schools are staging walkouts on Monday to protest the labour standoff between teachers and the Ontario government.

At Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School in the downtown core, about 300 students walked out at 9:30 a.m. They marched around the perimeter of the school's football field, then took their protest to City Hall.

"We want to appeal to the government and the unions to settle," said Daniel Panciuc, a student who helped to organize the event.

"We want to let people know that teachers always put students first," he added.

Students brandished signs that read "Kill the Bill" — referring to the provincial 115, which teachers say clamps down on their collective bargaining rights — and "Respect Teachers' Rights."

The student walkouts come while teachers across the province are participating in job actions, both in response to failed negotiations with local school boards and Bill 115.

On Dec. 1, high school teachers with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board began strike measures, which include refusing to attend staff meetings, participate in field trips, complete ministry reports and correspond with parents outside of school hours.

Sir John A. Macdonald students took their protest to City Hall. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

As a result, the HWDSB has suspended extra-curricular activities, effective on Monday.

"I want the ESL club to keep going," said Abdul Malik Bashir, a Grade 9 student at Sir John A. Macdonald who recently moved to Canada from Somalia, said during the protest. "How can I learn if there's no club?"

However, he blames the government, not teachers, for the job action.

A crowd of about three dozen students at Saltfleet District High School in Stoney Creek stepped out in support of their teachers Monday morning, waving signs with slogans such as "Don't Bully Me" and "Stop Bill 115."

"I'm here because I want extra-curriculars back," said Tracey De Luca, a Grade 9 student, explaining why she chose to be a part of the crowd assembled on the sidewalk outside of the school.

De Luca, and others around her, lamented the fact that their drama-related activities have been greatly reduced, along with sports.

"Our Christmas presentation in drama has been cancelled," she said, adding, "I want football, and basketball and soccer back."

"It's not fair that we have to deal with the government picking on us."

A reporter from CBC Hamilton live-blogged from Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School on Monday morning, where students were boycotting classes. The coverage can be replayed below: