School Survival

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Toronto fights against new bill
There were 6 or 7 of us sitting in the room. We had just decided to hold a Toronto-wide high school walkout because of Mike Harris' plans to pass bill 160; a bill that would overhaul the education system, slash funding, and increase the divisions between students, teachers and the various board's of education. We brainstormed all the schools we could think of, that we or our friends attended, or even schools where we had acquaintances who we thought might want to organize walkouts. Our list had about 20 schools where we thought walkouts were really possible.

We made posters and handbills that gave information on what we were planning. We contacted friends and visited schools. We put up posters in the bathrooms, which stayed up for a long time. At other schools we handed out leaflets the morning of the walkouts. Both ways word spread and soon everybody knew. My high school was left completely barren. Everybody walked out. Walkouts took place in over 15 schools. Small groups from each school made their way to Queen's Park, where over 500 angry students held their protest.

Later, when teachers were on strike, we organized flying pickets to support them. We met early in the morning at one school, marched on the picket lines with those teachers for a while, then marched on to another school to support the teachers there. We boosted the spirits of teachers wherever we went. We made our way to the ministry of education, passing schools along the way, and encouraging students to join us. We met up with other students who were already holding a protest at the ministry.

In the end, the union leadership backed down from their strike. Bill 160 got passed. Our actions ended essentially in failure. But even as it was being passed, students spontaneously walked out and protested outside Queen's Park. When the bill passed we blocked traffic on Queen's Park Circle, and disrupted the legislative reading of the bill.

While walkouts and student disruptions are no sure way to settle demands (let alone challenge bills being passed in parliament), they are an important tactic of direct refusal to those things that threaten or qualitatively impoverish the lives of students. Even in overall failure, it is important to recognize the victories that were won. We radicalized an unknown amount of students, and forged massive links of solidarity in the process.

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