Community unites against Bill 160
By Sara Marett
It was a Black Monday for some London teachers and students, as education reform Bill 160 went before the Ontario legislature yesterday for its third and final reading.
At South Secondary School, teachers and students wore black clothes to announce their disapproval of the bill. Outside, apple green ribbons stated their silent protest loud and clear from surrounding trees and posts.
The Green Ribbon Campaign was launched province-wide over the weekend by a group of concerned parents called People for Education. "We are working in a partnership with the teachers, not for them as Minister Johnson would have you believe," said Michele Girash Bevan, a coordinator for the group.
Minister of Education Dave Johnson stated in a press release that the ribbon campaign, as well as encouraging students in the classroom to be drawn into the political action, is going even further than the two-week illegal strike by the teachers. "This is a protest with the government and should not be carried out in the classrooms."
Bevan said kids are not being hurt by the ribbons but would certainly be hurt by the bill. "I think the [government's] response to this shows how worried they are about their position," she said. She added the speaker of the house during yesterday's hearing of the bill ordered all members not to wear the ribbon and some members of the opposition were thrown out for wearing them.
"There are lots of ribbons outside I hear stores in London have run out of green ribbon," said Bob Miskimam, vice-principal at South Secondary.
He said his school, like many others in the province, has organized information sessions on the bill for parents and students. Miskimam added there has been a significant number of people calling the school to find out what the implications will be if the bill is passed.
It must be noted, he said, that all of these activities are occurring outside the curriculum of classes, where students and teachers are busy with mid-term evaluations, which are occurring two weeks later than usual because of the strike.
A London group of parents and grandparents, who are concerned about the bill but not part of any group or organization, held a silent candlelight vigil last night in downtown London. "We have heard so much from both sides, the teachers and the government, about the bill. We just wanted to take the time to reflect on everything," said member Frank Stilson. He added the vigils may become a weekly event if the turnout is good.