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Vaughan high school cancels extracurricular activities

All extracurricular activities at Stephen Lewis Secondary School in Vaughan have been cancelled for the school year, right up until prom.

Sports, music programs and the yearbook club have all been cancelled, and even prom could be on the chopping block.

Students at the school say they feel caught in the middle of the labour war between teachers and the Ontario government, and held an impromptu walkout Thursday to protest the decision.

“I’m gutted,” Xavier Tu, the president of the Student Athletic Association, told CityNews.

“If this lasts, we won’t have prom,” Grade 12 student Jordana Moss said.

Both school officials and the OSSTF refused to comment Thursday.

School board spokesperson Licinio Miguelo told CityNews, “Extracurricular activities are voluntary and staff are free to make their own decisions whether they participate in those activities.”

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) called on its 60,000 members not to volunteer for any extracurricular activities for one day on Wednesday after the Putting Students First Act passed a day earlier.

Teachers’ unions also have threatened to challenge the act in court, claiming it violates their constitutional rights.

The bill, which reins-in wages, halves sick days and bans strikes or lockouts for teachers and education workers, passed with the support of the Progressive Conservatives.

The Liberals insist the measure is needed to help them maintain their full-day kindergarten program and to maintain small class sizes as the provincial government works to reduce a $15-billion deficit.  

One student told 680News she sympathized with the teachers.

“They were given an ultimatum. They did what was best for them, what was best for their careers, for their own lives…,” said Jesse, a Grade 12 student on the wrestling team.

“This is affecting us a lot more than they think. It’s not just about fun,” she added. “They teach us who we are.”

Daniel, another Grade 12 student, said he stood by his educators.

“For all that they’ve done for us, and the fact that McGuinty himself has imposed such a bill on our teachers, I feel as if we have to give back for our teachers, and just say ‘You know what? This shouldn’t be happening,'” he told 680News.

“We should actually fight for our teachers’ rights as well.”

Students said many teachers have explained the situation in class, adding that they had no choice but to cut the activities.

With files from 680News