Black Press Media is clarifying that the alleged sexual assaults that Okanagan students have been speaking out over the last couple of months did not take place on any school property.
It is also noted that Central Okanagan Public Schools provides safe and supportive learning environments and does not tolerate any form of sexual violence and takes all allegations seriously. The district follows internal protocols that were developed alongside the Elizabeth Fry Society and the RCMP to ensure the safety and privacy of all minors involved.
Counselling services and an offer to connect with outside support agencies were also offered to those individuals involved in an allegation, according to the school district.
Students from Mount Boucherie Secondary School (MBSS), École Kelowna Secondary School (KSS) and supporters from across B.C. held a protest against sexual assault on Sunday, Feb.27, in downtown Kelowna.
The protests began at MBSS in West Kelowna after a series of alleged sexual assault complaints were filed by students to both the RCMP and the Central Okanagan School District.
As the story involves minors and matters that are under investigation, Black Press Media is not disclosing any of the names of any of those involved.
An MBSS student began organizing protests after reporting an alleged assault to police and school staff in November and still claims nothing has been done.
She was allegedly sexually assaulted by an older student in November, and explained that she was initially resistant to filing the report but decided it was for the best when she found out other girls were also claiming to be victims of the same male student.
She said that there is at least one other police report filed by an MBSS student against him with charges of sexual assault under investigation.
RCMP Cpl. Tammy Lobb said the investigation is ongoing and is unable to comment on specifics of the case at this time, as it is before the courts.
The accused allegedly continued to attend regular classes at MBSS until recently, said another MBSS student.
She said that he was moved to online learning “for all student safety,” after a series of protests and demonstrations calling for his removal were held at the school.
“We have to walk past our assaulter (sic) in the hallways,” said the victim from MBSS.
A student from KSS said that the girls who have been allegedly assaulted “feel unsafe, have panic attacks at school and feel (as though there are) hands on them. This is because of that person and every other person who has done something like that at the school.”
It is unknown if the accused faces suspension for his actions but a female student at MBSS said that she has faced repercussions for trying to protect the victims of sexual abuse.
“I was suspended for creating a petition asking the school to do better.”
She said that she was told “she was not welcome on school property” unless she changed the terminology used in the online petition.
Students at the protest said that the culture in School District 23 is too tolerant of sexual assault and harassment.
One student said that at the MBSS protest “during chants of no means no many people were chanting no means yes.”
A Grade 10 KSS student, who claims to be the victim of rape and sexual abuse, is speaking out against the policies that protect abusers.
“I was assaulted at the beginning of October and my abuser was in my class until the beginning of January. I was told that if there was an issue I had to move out of the class and finish the class at the end of the year,” said the KSS student.
Another KSS student is frustrated with the complacency at her school surrounding sexual harassment, saying: “I am calling on Troy White, the principal, Christey Hughes, the vice-principal, and I want them to make a big bold school statement about how they’re going to handle sexual harassment.”
She claims that in the past the school staff have been resistant to issuing a statement condemning sexual harassment.
Students and parents are calling for a reform on how sexual assaults are handled in schools.
A mother, whose daughter was assaulted in Salmon Arm, attended the protest to raise awareness and provide education.
The mother claims that her daughter’s abuser had been flagged for “starting behaviours” at his old school.
He was allegedly transferred to her daughter’s school after allegedly assaulting two other students. The mother said that her daughter was his third victim and that the level of violence was escalating with each attack.
The Salmon Arm assailant has allegedly re-offended and is being tried as an adult.
An MBSS alumnus, who graduated last year, told the Capital News that the prevalence of sexual assault in local high schools is nothing new.
She said that during her time at the West Kelowna high school, “students would have to warn each other and take care of each other, but we’re just kids. We shouldn’t have to do that.”
When asked about how the school district is responding to the allegations, Kevin Kaardal, superintendent/CEO of Central Okanagan Public Schools, said school staff is working with the students in the school to explore how the school district can “continue to provide safe and caring school environments.”
“The district supports student voice that brings awareness to creating a culture of consent,” said Kaardal.
“Safety plans for all involved are put in place. Safety is our top priority. Reports to the RCMP may result in different conditions for those involved. The school district follows those conditions as a part of its actions and safety plan. Each circumstance is unique.”
Students at the protest wanted to share a message to other victims of abuse: “You are not alone. you will never be alone. tell somebody.
“People will believe you. We believe you.”