Students left a Toronto high school that they claim has descended into “continuous turmoil,” where they described appalling circumstances, staff described it as violent, and parents demanded the school board take action.
Students from York Memorial Collegiate Institute highlighted a continual police presence, restrooms without toilet paper or feminine products, and classrooms that are construction zones during a walkout held outside The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) office on Friday.
With the merger of York Memorial Collegiate Institute and George Harvey Collegiate Institute in September, 1,300 students were crammed into one structure close to Keele Street and Rogers Road. The merger “hasn’t been without its challenges,” according to the TDSB.
“When you walk into school, it feels like a prison,” a Grade 12 student said on Friday afternoon.
“I have never seen anything like this happen in my whole entire high school experience. As a student, I’m very angry.”
Students gathered to demand a “safe and stable” learning environment, which they described as void of a police presence and racial violence, a school brimming over capacity and staff not showing up to class. On Thursday night, parents attended a TDSB meeting to address these ongoing issues.
“She’s scared to death to go to school, “the mother of a Grade 9 student said at the consultation. “She’s coming home saying, ‘Mom, I could have died today.”‘
Members of the school’s administration, including the current principal, did not show up for work last month, citing an unsafe work environment.
At the time, staff members told CTV News Toronto that bathrooms had become “fight clubs” and alleged sites for drug use. A lockdown took place on Nov. 15 following reports of a person with a gun.
“Has anyone asked why students are fighting and why students are angry? Our anger has led to violence because no one is listening,” an honour roll student said at the Friday rally.
“I want to make it clear it is not all students that are causing the issues and it’s not all teachers that are causing the issues. However, the tension between teachers and students is the main reason why there’s problems happening in our school.”