Reflections on Bill 115 (Kyndra Donaldson, @kyndra_316)

The Ontario’s government’s Bill 115 has created a crisis in our schools. Students have been lleft in the dark, completely in the dark, some of us more than others. The worst part is, in most cases, we only know as much as our teachers do.

We as students want our voices to be heard. We want our extracurricular activities back, but most of us do not even know what we are fighting against or who we are fighting against. Most of us do not know who to listen to as everyone’s facts and opinions vary. We do not know who to ask, as our parents have viewpoints and teachers can only say so much. So in all the confusion that has been created, some of us protest in a way that does nothing for us. Some students skipped class to stand out front of a school with misspelled signs, not knowing which side they were even on.

In reality, sides shouldn’t even be picked. How do we even know who to choose or what to choose? You hear the students talk and, at first, they all blame the teachers, thinking they have decided to stop providing those extracurricular activities. Someone finally says that the unions are making them stop extracurricular activities, so then we blame the unions. Then it’s realized that they are just trying to stand up for their teachers in a counter argument to the government. Lastly, we begin to blame the government, but most of us do not even know why and those of us who do only know about Bill 115, the two year contract, as well as a few of the details of both. Students are playing the blame game and do not know the whole story.

But that creates the question: does anyone? From our understanding, extracurricular activities were removed to apply pressure, to make students complain to their parents, who in return would complain to the government who make the decisions for the people. But if nothing has changed, does that not imply that something is not working?

A two-year contract. That indicates that everything should go back to normal. But is this not a forced contract, creating the same problems and worries of the Bill? Students are being affected just as much as everyone else and we do not have the access to the information we wish we did. We just want to understand.

Scholarships, experience, university, college, the whole world ahead of us: extracurricular activities covered all of this. Grade 12: the last year of school. It means prom, graduation, grad breakfast and a year to make memories. Extracurricular activities allowed post-secondary schools to give out scholarships, a necessity for some students because financial burden of post-secondary school is too much. Extracurricular activities provided experience and helped some of us to decide what our future career was. It inspired students, initiated a spark and ignited a flame. Some students even realize a passion for teaching this way.

We want our sports, drama, student’s council, activism, the gay-straight alliance, LINK crew, and A.S.I.S.T. team. Some of these extras are critical to some people. The gay-straight alliance allowed people to understand and come to terms with their sexuality as well as feel supported by peers, LINK crew was a group of older students acting as mentors and welcoming the grade nines into their first year of high school, and A.S.I.S.T. team was a group of students who were there for students, so they could express their feelings especially when overwhelmed, stressed and/or depressed.

There are also many students who know they need to keep their grades up to do these activities, and now that they are gone they may not have the motivation to get good grades. For other students, these activities provided downtime or a non-stressful environment, where they could escape all outside events, drama and pressures.

Another extremely difficult struggle with this situation is that a lot of us do not know how to express and share our voice. We want to share these opinions. We want our voices to be heard, and our attempts, the good and the bad, do not seem to express what we want. As students we want these privileges back. As human beings we all know that we work harder when there is a reward at the end, working at school means the ability to participate in extracurricular activities. Therefore, this situation has become an uncomfortable, not understood predicament. In general, students just want to know, hear, see and understand that which affects us.

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