Langley Secondary students and other kids from School District 35 voiced their opinion against the district’s policies related to sexual violence cases.
The protest started at around noon on Feb. 24. More than 40 people protested outside the high school premises, and drivers passing by honked to show their support.
School district representatives and administrators present had discussed health and safety guidelines with the students with respect to the protest.
The students said that the code of conduct for Langley school district currently does not address the issue of sexual violence clearly and they demanded that their district replicate the Toronto school district policies, under which an offender is either suspended or moved from their current school.
The movement started by a group of Grade 12 and 11 students gained “crazy support,” after they demanded the code of conduct be changed, said 16-year-old Alexa Starnes.
Grade 12 student Joshika Jouhal said that the current code of conduct does not clearly define the action that would be taken against a student who commits sexual assault. She further said that at least seven students in the district had committed sexual assault crimes and the names of the offenders are with the district management.
While the code of conduct lays out steps to deal with bullying, 18-year-old Madison Starnes feels there are no precautions in place to help the victims.
“We are trying to change the code of conduct around the sexual violence in school so victims don’t have to go to school with their rapists every day,” said 16-year-old Alexa Starnes, in Grade 11.
“When you are just trying to get education you have to go to school every day… why should we have to be scared in the hallway?” said 12-year-old Brooklyn Vinciguerra.
School administrators have met with the student organizers of the protest to ensure their concerns were heard and to outline roles and responsibilities.
District communication manager, Joanne Abshire shared that the district has been reviewing the student code of conduct since fall 2021 and is considering potential changes regarding language related to sexual violence.
While the district representatives did not comment on when and what changes will be made, they expressed that their priority was to ensure the protest happened in a safe and secure manner.
Although district said that no teachers were involved in the protest, the organizers claimed that some teachers and parents also participated in the student-led protest.
The school and district were made aware of the student protest in advance. Although having students in class during this time was preferred, the school and district respected the students’ right to protest.
The group clarified that their protest is not directed at Langley Secondary School but at School District 35.
“Langley Secondary has done a great job in allowing us to participate in this protest… the problem is within the system as a whole,” said Grade 12 student Joshika Jouhal.
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