Qualicum school board explicitly supports students protesting

Motion carried to support peaceful protest engagement as part of learning experience

Students from a Washington state high school walk out of class in protest against gun violence following a deadly shooting at a Florida school in February. The Qualicum school board recently voted in favour of supporting students who choose to protest peacefully, noting that some students in the United States had suffered punishment from their schools for such actions. — File Photo

Parksville Qualicum Beach’s school board now explicitly supports student efforts to protest peacefully “as part of their learning experience,” after a motion passed 4-1 Tuesday, June 26.

The motion, brought forward by Trustee Jacob Gair, was in reaction to students in the United States who, following protests with regards to the Parkland shooting in Florida on Feb. 14, suffered repercussions due to their involvement.

While some students saw support from their schools, others were told that their involvement in protests amounted to skipping class, said Gair. Some students were punished beyond what their school district’s policies allow, he said.

The motion was meant to ensure that School District 69 (Qualicum) allows for students to exercise their right to peaceful assembly when it comes to protests without fear of reprisal by their school or school district, said Gair.

“I’m absolutely not in support of this motion,” said Trustee Barrie Kurland.

He noted that, while he’s in support of students protesting, having taken part in protests before, he said choosing to protest is a personal decision that can, in some cases, include going to jail, even at a peaceful protest. That is a personal decision, he said, and doesn’t need the support of the board.

He also said that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects a person’s right to protest peacefully, so the school board need not state its support.

“I don’t think it’s our job,” he said.

He also voiced concern that being explicitly in support of students protesting could lead to legal trouble for the district, and asked what happens if students are protesting something the board is in favour of, such as support for LGBTQ students.

Gair said he feels his proposed motion is even more important in cases where students are at odds with the board or administration.

Trustees Elaine Young and Julie Austin said they would support the motion, with Young saying, “I don’t think it hurts to support this motion,” and Austin saying, “I don’t think you can say it (your support for peaceful protest) enough… I think it’s a good time to say it.”

The motion, that the board “support the efforts of students to engage in peaceful protest on issues of importance to them as part of their learning experience” passed, with Kurland voting against it.

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