Kelowna high school students stage protest

Close to 200 Rutland Senior Secondary students add their voices in support of teachers.

Rutland Senior Secondary students lined up along Rutland Road in front of their school this morning to protest a lack of progress in negotiations between teachers and the government on a new labour contract.

Rutland Senior Secondary students lined both sides of Rutland Road in front of their school this morning to voice their frustration over stalled labour negotiations between teachers and the province.

Close to 200 Grade 10 to 12 students turned out at 9 a.m. for the 30-minute demonstration, wielding signs with slogans in support of teachers.

Mariah Johnson, an RSS student who originally hatched the protest idea earlier this week and spread the word on Facebook, posters and a video, said she was ecstatic at the response.

“I’m really excited,” she said this morning. “I had no idea it would turn out to be so big. Look at all the students out here.”

While Johnson said the students largely are behind the teachers, she said her classmates also feel they are being forgotten in the bitter contract negotiating process now being played out, which will see teachers go on strike for three days starting Monday.

“More than anything else, I hope people will take away from (this protest) that students are affected more than anyone else…Our futures are on the line,” Johnson said.

Jon Rever, school district director of instruction for the Rutland zone, was watching over the protest this morning.

Rever said school district officials always get a little nervous when students walk out of class to stage a protest, but he said the RSS students were carrying out their protest responsibly.

“I strongly believe that students have a voice and they have right to voice their concerns,” Rever said.

He said RSS classes carried on during the 30-minute protest as the number of students involved in the protest was a small percentage of the 1,400 students at the school.

“And Rutland Middle School is right next door and classes are carrying on as usual,” Rever added.

Kris Sabourin, a parent with a daughter that attends Grade 10 at RSS, said she was glad to see students supporting the teachers.

A former school trustee with the Boundary School District, Sabourin moved with her daughter to Kelowna so she could benefit from attending a larger school with more student program resources.

“My husband is a teacher in the Boundaryschool district and my mom was a teacher so I have lived through this before,” said Sabourin, talking about the previous bitter contract negotiations between teachers and the government.

Sabourin said education is the most important thing goverment can invest our tax dollars in, educating students so they become positive contributors to society and not end up in prison or a burden to our social service network.

“The government has its priorities all wrong. How much was spent on putting a new roof on B.C. Place and how many people is that really going to benefit, when compared to the funding needs of our education system,” Sabourin said.