About 30 students at Burnaby South Secondary joined a provincewide walkout today in support of their striking teachers.
The students, ranging from grade 8 to 12, gathered at the front of their school in the rain, with placards in hand, ready to march off to the Vancouver Art Gallery to join their counterparts in a rally.
"We're doing this so teachers get what they deserve," said Grade 12 student Jenny Lin. "(The government's Bill C-22) is definitely taking away the teachers' right to do their job."
The provincial government is in the midst of passing Bill C-22, which will prevent teachers from striking and will impose stiff penalties if they do.
The students also had concerns about class sizes and composition, some of the ongoing issues the teachers have been raising with the provincial government.
"If you have a class of 30 students, and 10 are special needs, it's not fair to the special needs students," said Carolina Chang.
Grade 9 student Joshua Comia drafted a leaflet to pass out at the rally, outlining some of the issues the group was concerned about, such as school closures, provincial government funding, overcrowded classrooms and difficult working conditions.
By Friday afternoon, more than 18,000 people had RSVP'ed on a Facebook page for the walkout.
James Sanyshyn, vice-president of the Burnaby Teachers' Association, said they did not have an official position on the students' walkout because, as teachers, they wouldn't want to encourage kids to leave class.
"That being said, I've seen a lot of teachers unofficially commenting on Facebook saying it's amazing students are able to give back a gesture of kindness in this difficult time," he said. "It means a lot when students act on their principles and their beliefs."
Sanyshyn also said the move was a grassroots, student-lead initiative, not the result of brainwashing by teachers.
Teachers have been on administrative strike since September, but they voted in favour of escalating job action to a full-scale strike starting Monday. The Labour Relations Board granted the B.C. Teachers' Federation permission to strike for three days only.
The teachers are not creating a picket line on Monday, Sanyshyn said, but they will be passing out leaflets as part of the deal struck with the Labour Relations Board.
"We went along with the idea of a non-picket picket, if you will, so were having this leaflet line handing out information for anyone who's interested," he said.