NO EXCUSES: Around 20 high school students, including these, walked out of class June 13 at Cape Breton Highland Academy, angered over a perceived lack of action after an alleged sexual assault at the school. The school says it was investigating.
-by Anne Farries
Amid rumours that school administrators were ignoring an on-campus sexual assault, students in the graduating class at Cape Breton Highlands Academy walked out of class last week, risking the loss of their end-of-school prom and graduation ceremony.
Around 20 students in grades 11 and 12 left their desks June 13th at Cape Breton Highlands Academy, organized by Keira Doyle, who stood on a bench outside the front doors and said, “sexual assault in any form, even alleged sexual assault, is no joke.”
In the alleged assault, an 18-year-old star athlete was said to have cornered a girl from a younger grade in an otherwise empty classroom while another male student guarded the door.
“When our administration not only does nothing, to our knowledge, but seemingly sides with the perpetrator about issues as serious as the one we as a school are dealing with, it not only silences the victim, but enables the offender and enables other incidents to occur,” Doyle said.
“When information like this is hidden and we’re told we’re not allowed to talk about it, it doesn’t create a safer environment.”
Doyle called the walk-out after an hour-long meeting Wednesday morning with school principal Peter Goosens, during which, she said, Goosens threatened to suspend end-of-school ceremonies if the students left the building.
“He said if we went ahead with the walk-out he would have to punish us in some way,” Doyle later told The Oran. “He said he didn’t want to have to take away or disrupt our graduation celebrations.”
“He read off a little paper he had written up (...) and as he finished, he said he expected us all to go to class.”
Minutes later, the students walked out. One girl cried and thanked people. Others hugged.
That was Wednesday morning.