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Over 100,000 students walked out of more than 700 Ontario schools to protest the PC government’s cuts to education. Photo: Roderick Benns.

Unions call on education director to counter Ford government’s ‘false narrative’

in Education by

The heads of the elementary and secondary schools’ teachers’ unions are calling on Director of Education, Larry Hope, to set the record straight – that teachers did not coerce students to walk out on April 4.

Just a few days ago more than 100,000 students walked out of more than 700 Ontario schools to protest the PC government’s agenda, including changes to the health curriculum, deep cuts to OSAP, and the recently proposed changes to class sizes and e-learning. These were student organized and student-led protests.

But on the evening of April 4, Minister of Education Lisa Thompson, on the official ministry website, dismissed the activism of the student organizers “and attempted to spin a false narrative about the role of teachers and teachers’ unions,” according to the open letter from the union reps.

Specifically the minister of education said teachers are, “enabling students to skip classes. And even when students are in class, too many teachers are choosing to use student as a captive audience for the union’s political agenda.”

Thompson went on to say that she “expects all boards, to take action to discipline anyone who abandons their classroom responsibilities.”

In an open letter Karen Bratina, Trillium Lakelands Elementary Teachers Local president, and Colin Matthew, president of Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, District 15, write in their letter that they “call on Director of Education, Larry Hope, to set the record straight.”

They ask him to “reassure the public that not only were no teachers disciplined with regards to the student walkout but that both the School Board and the teachers of TLDSB continue to act in accordance with the standards of their profession and work in the best interest of students, parents, and the education community in accordance with the laws of Ontario.”

The Advocate reached out to Hope, who agreed there was no need for teacher discipline. “We are not aware of any instances where discipline of staff is required at this time.”

Catherine Shedden, District Manager of Corporate Communications at Trillium Lakelands, said all seven TLDSB secondary schools and several elementary schools had students who participated in the walkout.

“We are not aware of any involvement in the April 4 student walkout by TLDSB teachers. As far as we could tell, this was organized by and for students,” she says.

Shedden also says the walk-out was not sanctioned by the school board, but students were asked to select a spokesperson to communicate with the school principal. School principals communicated with parents and students about behavioural expectations and any students who walked out of class or did not return to class were marked absent.

In their open letter, Matthew and Bratina say that “given both the importance of an educated populace and the cost of public education the people of Ontario deserve the facts when it comes to their education system, including the integrity and professionalism of the teachers and the leadership, both locally and provincially.”

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Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Lindsay Advocate. He is the author of 'Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World,' and is also Vice Chair of the Ontario Basic Income Network. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, Roderick has interviewed former Prime Ministers of Canada, Senators, and Mayors across Canada. He also wrote and published a series of books for youth about Canada's Prime Ministers as teens.

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