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More than talk, Stephenville High students want change in policy on sexual abuse

Faith Young was one of the people involved in a silent protest at Stephenville High School on Wednesday aimed at changing policy on sexual abuse and sexual violence in schools.
Faith Young was one of the people involved in a silent protest at Stephenville High School on Wednesday aimed at changing policy on sexual abuse and sexual violence in schools. - Frank Gale

While the province’s English school district is looking to correct deficiencies as it relates to sexual assault allegations, students at Stephenville High still went ahead with a protest on Wednesday.

Donna Miller Fry, the board’s assistant director of programs for the western region of the province, said in a letter to students, teachers and guardians of Stephenville High that the board is engaging with community partners about the deficiencies in the process.

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Those partners include the RCMP, the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women, the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre.

Faith Young, a Grade 12 student at the school involved in the protest, said while students are glad to see some movement taking place, they want that stepped up to 100 per cent and the policy in place, not just talk of it.

The silent protest inside the school on Wednesday involved no talking and no work to bring attention to making a change to the Schools Act. Students want a policy in place relating to what happens when there is an incident of sexual abuse and sexual violence in the school.

“If a teacher was the one accused, that person would be out of the school right away, but with a student accused, that person can remain in the school where the victims would be,” Young said.

She said when she first heard of the allegations of sexual abuse she was disgusted and upset.

“I went to school with the alleged abuser for the past 10 years, so when you hear of these allegations it’s not something you get over real quick,” Young said.

She says it’s good that women in the community brought this out into the open and that there are victims speaking out.

“When people speak out it protects others,” Young said.

She said from the students who have come forward that she is aware of, several participated in Wednesday’s protest.

Young said hopefully other schools are taking heed of this protest and are learning from it. She said if there is similar abuse taking place the victims should take from this that they should speak out and try to affect some change in policy.

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