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Thousands of BC students commit to walking out tomorrow

Thousands of students are showing their support for teachers -- or an hour early off of school tomorrow -- by saying they'll be attending one of several province-wide student walkouts happening from 2 to 5 p.m. tomorrow.

The Facebook event "BC High School Students Walk Out" has over 15,500 students marked as attending, with another 6,000 listed as maybe, and 68,000 who have yet to respond.

Although the event is strictly aimed at those in and around the Vancouver-area, kids from across the province are said to be holding their own walkout events, including rumoured walkouts in Victoria and Surrey. The Prince George School District has even posted a message from Superintendent Brian Pepper telling parents the walkout is not a school sponsored event, and encouraging them to discuss safety plans with their children should they decide to participate in the protest.

Event co-organizer Navi Rai, a Grade 11 student at Windermere Secondary School in Vancouver, told The Tyee she's confident students will show up at the Vancouver Art Gallery tomorrow to show their support.

"Different schools all over B.C. are going to come down tomorrow to the Art Gallery, and we're all just going to have a peaceful protest. We're going to have speeches, we're going to have some performances, and hopefully everything runs smoothly," she said, adding the organizers have spoken to New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix who expressed his support for the event.

"We've had a lot of support, and we have a lot of people helping us organize, it's not just us. I'm really proud of everyone."

In addition to organizing the event, the six students listed on Facebook as the event organizers are holding a sign making workshop this evening, have designed their own fliers and posted them on Facebook for other students to use, and are emphasizing the event is to support teachers and not about "skipping" school--the walk out is scheduled to begin one hour before classes end in the Vancouver district.

Although a video posted by the walkout organizers shows signs criticizing the government for education cuts, Rai says the walk out isn't about taking sides, but having students' voices heard above the din of BC Teachers' Federation and government's ongoing arguments.

"I hope that the government will see that the students do have a voice and that we do care about our teachers, and that we do understand the issues that are going on. I hope that the government can talk to our teachers and compromise with them," she told The Tyee.

"I believe that they both need to communicate and they both need to compromise together."

Katie Hyslop reports on education and youth issues for The Tyee and The Tyee Solutions Society.

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