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Student walkout at Nepean High School

By Bella Crysler –

On Friday, September 21, at 1 p.m., hundreds of students around Ottawa stood up and walked out of class. Teens grades 9 – 12 from six different Ottawa high schools took part in a school walkout to protest Premier Doug Ford’s recent changes to the Sex Ed curriculum which will see topics such as same-sex marriage, gender identity, and cyberbullying officially removed from classroom discussion. Doug Ford plans to move from 2015’s updated curriculum to the one used in 1998, one that students believe will not adequately prepare young people for navigating safely through adolescence in today’s society.

At Nepean High School, over 200 students gathered outside the main entrance of the school, many carrying hand made posters with slogans such as “Sex-Ed saves lives,” “Education = Empowerment,” and the main message: “We the students do not consent.”

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Contrary to a common criticism of teenagers being uninvolved and disconnected from greater society, this protest was student-organized, student-lead, and student-powered from top to bottom and was designed to benefit the students of tomorrow. Passionate guest speakers such as MPP Joel Harden rallied the crowds but the loudest cheers heard were for NHS’s very own student speakers who delivered heartfelt speeches in front of their peers and community regarding the importance of topics such as consent and LGBTQ rights being included in their education.

Whether or not these student voices will be heard and seriously taken into account by the likes of Doug Ford and fellow legislators is not yet known, but they were certainly heard by Westboro that afternoon.

KT: Why are you walking out today? Rosie, Grade 12: “I am walking out today to express my discontent with Doug Ford’s choices and the new education plan for kids grades 1 – 12. I’m not okay with it and I want to show that. I think that this [the walkout] is a good way to do that.”

KT: Why is it important that the curriculum not revert back to the 1998 version? Destiny, Grade 12: “We would just be going back to the past and everything changes. So they [the kids] will just be learning stuff that was happening 17 years ago and not happening today. They won’t know what to do now, they’ll know what to do going into the world 17 years ago.“

KT: Do you think that the school should have done more to educate us about this issue rather than just saying that we would be marked absent? Raffi, Grade 12: “No I actually like that this was a walkout, I think it’s cool to feel like you’re doing something as a student without teachers letting you or telling you. It’s not a field trip, it’s a protest. I think it’s good that we are taking things into our own hands.”

 

KT: What do you think about the turnout today, as someone new to Nepean? Sabiha, Grade 9: “It’s quite amazing honestly, it shows how many people really want to make a change and really care about our future.”

Bella Crysler is a grade 12 student at Nepean High School.

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