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Langley students rally in support of teachers

Clarissa Gutowski (far right), a Grade 10 student at Langley Secondary School, organized a protest at Langley City Hall to show student support for B.C. Teachers. Nearly 40 students from LSS and H. D. Stafford Middle School walked out of classes at 2 p.m. on Friday and stood outside City Hall to make their voices heard.  - Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times
Clarissa Gutowski (far right), a Grade 10 student at Langley Secondary School, organized a protest at Langley City Hall to show student support for B.C. Teachers. Nearly 40 students from LSS and H. D. Stafford Middle School walked out of classes at 2 p.m. on Friday and stood outside City Hall to make their voices heard.
— image credit: Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times

At 2 p.m. on Friday, dozens of students at H.D. Stafford Middle School and Langley Secondary School told their teachers they were marching out of class and down to Langley City Hall.

Close to 40 students were standing in the rain on the corner of 204 Street and Douglas Crescent with posters that read “We support our teachers” and “We are the teachers of tomorrow and we have a voice,” to show their support for B.C. teachers in an ongoing labour dispute with the provincial government.

Following a similar model to the Facebook group —  created for Vancouver students to rally in favour of teachers at the Vancouver Art Gallery —  LSS Grade 10 student Clarissa Gutowski decided to hold a gathering in Langley.

“My mother told me that I should do something about this so I said, ‘You know what? I am going to make a group.’ So I made a group and people followed,” Gutowski said.

The B.C. Teachers Federation was given permission by the Labour Relations Board to have a three-day strike from March 5-7. However, the LRB said that there were to be no picket lines. Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees have been told by their union to report for work.

Gutowski and her peers wanted to show Langley citizens and politicians that they support their teachers.

“I support the strike, but of course there’s pros and cons to everything. I’m here to confidently and peacefully say that what the teachers are doing is trying to help. There’s not much that we can do. By standing out here and holding a sign maybe we can get it across to someone,” she said.

For many students, it was tough to walk out of their classrooms.

“It was kind of scary,” said Katie Birch, a Grade 12 student at LSS. “Because there were only about three of us from my class that left. At first I was wondering if there was actually going to be anyone here to make a good protest and then we realized as we were walking down the hallway and more people came out of their classrooms that, ‘OK, this is actually going to do something.”

The provincial government has introduced a bill in the legislature that calls for a six-month cooling off period in the teachers’ labour dispute. However, teachers are able to mount limited strikes until that bill is passed. The bill is  expected to debuted this week at the earliest.

Schools are open and staffed by principals, vice-principals and support staff during the three-day strike, but the school district is asking parents not to send children to school.

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