A group of students at Fernie Secondary School participated in a student organized walkout on Wednesday. The roughly 30 teenagers who took part were protesting the current strike action between the provincial government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.
“We feel that the teachers and the government are almost using us as leverage to achieve their demands. As a personal slogan here today we’re all kind of saying ‘end the debate, it’s time to educate’,” remarked Grade 10 student Alias Engelhardt-LaChance. “We feel that we’re losing out because they’re fighting for their needs and we don’t feel like we’re going to gain anything from this.”
Engelhardt-LaChance emphasized that the students were not supporting the teachers or the government, but rather protesting the strike action in general.
“We’re not here as a part of any side, we don’t want to be biased against anybody,” he said. “We just want to see change happen, and maybe not for us because we don’t know how soon this will be resolved, but we want the future generations, and the kids below us, to have a full, well-rounded education.”
The protesting students felt the strike action was compromising their education and learning experience.
“It’s just really disappointing because in the career that I want to go into, I need to take biology, and in biology this year I’m not allowed to dissect anything because of the strike,” said Grade 11 student Kyra Kallies.
Grade 10 student Brandan Dixon chimed in, “We’re losing out on our educational help because they’re locking the teachers out at lunch. It’s limiting how much we can learn.”
The walkout was not sanctioned by Fernie Secondary School and all students who participated were encouraged to return to class.
“Our focus remains on the academic success of our students… We tried to have a conversation with them about not falling behind on their classes and making sure they were keeping up with their studies,” explained Principal Bill Johnson.
Despite rumours that any students who did not attend classes that day could face serious consequences, including suspension, loss of scholarships, and not being allowed to attend graduation, Johnson said that was not the case.
“We treated it as an unexcused absence and we did our best to contact parents to let them know that their children weren’t in class… we aren’t looking to suspend anyone,” he commented. “We do understand it’s a difficult situation and we’re hoping that next week we’re back to something a little more normal.”