Surrey-organized student walkout 'neither in support of BCTF or the government'

Surrey-organized student walkout ‘neither in support of BCTF or the government’

SURREY — Thousands of students across the province walked out of class this morning to take part in their own protest over the current teacher dispute.

Organized by Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary student Victoria Barker on Facebook and officially dubbed the BC Student Walkout for Students, the protest was meant to display students’ frustration with the current climate in B.C. schools. While more than 13,000 people signed up to participate online, participation reported online appeared to be less than that.

Either way, Barker was still happy to see students taking a stand for their own interests.

“This has been going on my entire school life and I finally got to the point where I thought ‘enough was enough’ and it’s time to do something,” said Barker, who’s currently in Grade 12 and getting ready to graduate. “When I was in Grade 4 there was a two-week teacher strike and in Grade 10 a few years ago there were three more days that teachers were out and then here we are again.”

Barker, who stood down the street from her school Wednesday morning with around 30 fellow classmates holding signs decrying the labour dispute, went on to say that students are sick of being used as leverage by both sides of the dispute.

“We’re neither in support of the BCTF or the government,” she said. “We’re just frustrated and need this to end.”

At the same time, Barker was receiving messages, Tweets and Facebook messages from students in school districts from all around B.C., reporting in about how their own protests were going.

In some districts, Barker noted that some students had been physically blocked from walking out by school administration, while other students elsewhere were saying that everything was going well.

In Surrey, district spokesman Doug Strachan said there was no direct message to local administration on how to deal with the walkout, only to ensure that safety was the first priority.

“It’s skipping class, that’s all, but they need to take some steps to make sure they’re safe, so they will,” he said.

At Lord Tweedsmuir, those safety measures involved locking most of the school’s doors to ensure that they could keep track of those leaving and returning to class.

“For safety reasons, students would have been directed to the front main entrance so we could control access and egress while students were coming and going,” said Strachan, noting that it was standard procedure for some schools.

However, some students have said they were being intimidated by principals and administrators — including those at Lord Tweedsmuir.

In response, Strachan said the students were simply misinterpreting the safety procedures.

“That might be what they’re saying, we’re doing what we need to do to ensure safety. Administrators have been telling students that the main entrance is what is to be used to come and go,” he said. “We’ve had various adults coming into the school, including reporters, so what they’re doing is telling people to use the main doors so they can keep track of people leaving or returning to class.”

And while the students in Surrey who participated in the walkout will be marked as having skipped class, Grade 9 Tweedsmuir student Caleb Owens said he just wanted to be able to express his frustration the same way the province and teachers have been.

“I feel that it’s unfair for students who have to be in the middle of a fight between teachers and the government and it’s us that are affected in a negative way,” he said. “We’re not out here for teachers, we’re out here for students. Both sides are being unreasonable and I feel like it’s a rip-off for students.”

Twitter @Questionchris