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'We need change': Belmont students walk out, calling for sexual assault policy changes in Sooke School District

Students march to the Sooke School District’s head office in Langford. They are calling on the district to make changes around how sexual assaults are dealt with in the school district. Students march to the Sooke School District’s head office in Langford. They are calling on the district to make changes around how sexual assaults are dealt with in the school district.
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A group of students walked out of classes at Belmont High School in Langford on Friday in an act of defiance. They are calling for change in the way that the Sooke School District deals with sexual assaults and sexual violence.

“We need people to listen and we need change. We need to be able to feel safe at school,” said Bee Craig, a Belmont student.

They say sexual assaults have happened on school properties, and when a victim comes forward, the school district is not properly investigating the allegations.

“Everyone is just being silent because they know no one is going to do anything,” said Pay McDougall, another Belmont student.

The students are calling on the district to create a clear policy to address assaults. They marched from Belmont High School to the head office of the Sooke School District.

“Every disclosure to any of our staff, we take it very, very seriously,” said Paul Block, superintendent of the Sooke School District.

Block says the district has protocols in place when allegations of a sexual nature are reported.

“Our staff have been trained in ways that we can receive that information to make sure we deal with it in the most appropriate way through a trauma-informed lens,” said Block.

Over the past few years, the school district has created a sexual health co-ordinator position who works with students, focusing on consent. Training has also been implemented for principals and vice-principals when it comes to investigating sexual assaults.

“As we work our way through allegations and we try to find our way to evidence in order to try to corroborate some of the things that have happened,” said Block.

A sexual assault is a criminal matter. The district says it works with RCMP to substantiate claims of an assault. If claims are substantiated, that is when the school district will take further action.

“Which may result in disciplinary action at the school level,” said the superintendent of the Sooke School District.

“People need to listen, we need to stand together as a community and we need to listen to those who have been hurt,” said Joshua Frenette, a student protestor from Belmont High School.

Those students were heard by the district’s superintendent during a meeting at the district office. Both parties have agreed to work together to find more solutions to the concerns of the students.

Another walkout, this time district-wide, is planned for next Wednesday.

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