Hundreds of Hamilton students walk out of class in protest of education cuts

Hundreds of Hamilton students have walked out of class in protest of changes changes expected to come to the education system.

Students across the province of Ontario started walking out of class at 1:15 p.m.

Students gather in front of Hamilton's city hall Thursday to protest education cuts. (Justin Mowat/CBC)

Hundreds of Hamilton students are walking out of class, banding together with peers from across the province in protest against education spending cuts.

Students from a number of Hamilton schools from both the public and separate boards started walking out at around 1:15 p.m. today. 

Students from about 600 schools across the province were expected to speak out against cuts to staffing — with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board deciding on an estimated reduction of about 136 positions from the the current school year. 

Students started walking out of class at 1:15 p.m. Thursday. Around 70 gathered in front of Hamilton's city hall. (Justin Mowat/CBC)

Amelia Arlen, a Grade 12 student at Westmount Secondary School told CBC News that about 200 students from her school walked out class, protesting outside of the school.

"We are standing outside to protest education cuts that Doug Ford is trying to make right now," said Arlen.

"I would tell Doug Ford that he needs to pay attention to education because it is what empowers our future, for it should become better and not worse."

When the issue was brought up during question period Thursday, Ford told the legislature that teachers have a responsibility to parents.

"They have a responsibility to the students to make sure that they stay in the classrooms and teach the students."

Arlen says that teachers have told them they are "not allowed to comment at this time."

A group of about 70 students from Cathedral High School in downtown Hamilton walked to Hamilton city hall.

Nick Montgomery in Grade 11 was one of the organizers from Cathedral. He had a message for Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson.

"We're going to be in the system and it's going to shape the rest of our lives and also shape the future of the country."

Nick Montgomery, a grade 11 student from Cathedral High School stands in the middle with fellow classmates, who organized Cathedral's walkout. (Justin Mowat/CBC)

An 11-year-old girl from Dundas Central Public School told CBC News that her message to premier Ford was that "we need our story to be told."

Students took their message not only to the streets, but on social media as well. Local actor, 13-year-old T.J. McGibbon, who is in the Neflix hit Umbrella Academy, fought back on Twitter against a disparaging comment accusing young people of not having a grasp of reality. 

When asked if students will be punished for cutting class, Alex Johnstone, chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board told CBC News that parents and guardian would be notified of their child's absence.

"We support our students' civil rights and their interest in civic engagement. We support student voices. We recognize that our students are feeling frustrated and that they are feeling they have not had a voice in the process," she said 
"Students are able to leave the property with permission -- many of our students were taking part over their lunch hour," said Johnstone. "We know that many of our students have demonstrated their civic rights today in a way that is responsible, respectful and safe."

A representative from NDP MPP Sandy Shaw's office told CBC News that there's over 100 outside her Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas constituency office. 

With files from Dan Taekema and Justin Mowat