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Trying to effect change on school board policy

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Events at Stephenville High in the past while have led to a lot of tension in the community, with people questioning whether things that were said or done should have been.

What spurred it all on were alleged charges of sexual assault against a student at the school, who is still a minor and can’t be identified due to protection under the Young Offenders Act.

Susan Fowlow, a member of the student council at the school, decided to stand up against the person who was alleged to have sexually assaulted multiple girls who were students at the school and resigned her position due to it being against what she said was “all she stood for.”

Fowlow is well known in Stephenville and the surrounding area for her involvement with anti-violence groups for a number of years.

A parent of the one of the alleged victims also had her say on the matter and was vehemently against a male student returning to the same school that her daughter was attending with these charges against him.

Fowlow and this parent saw this person returning to school as a re-victimization of the girls that he had allegedly assaulted in a sexual manner.

A number of students at the school were also aghast with the situation and staged a silent protest last week demanding the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District change their policy on matters related to sex offences.

The school board did come out during the week stating that in was engaging in consultations with community partners to discuss what it perceives to be deficiencies in the process relating to sexual assault allegations.

The young protesters weren’t buying it outright and Faith Young said they won’t be satisfied until an actual policy is put in place. She said just talking about it is not enough.

Were Fowlow and the mother of a victim right in bringing this matter out into the public?

While some may say that they shouldn’t have, especially since there was a threat against the school the day following Fowlow’s making the matter public on social media, Young certainly thinks it was the right thing to do.

She doubts that there would have even been any discussion between the school board and community organizations had nothing been made public.

Young also had strong praise for the female students in school who had the courage in the first place to come out and make the allegations, which she recognized as not being an easy thing to do.

The easy thing is to neatly sweep things under the carpet but everyone is aware that mess will show up when the carpet is eventually lifted.

When it comes to the rights of a person to an education versus what’s right or wrong when somebody is accused of something but not yet found guilty is tough.

Then there are also the rights, or lack thereof, of the alleged victims.

It would be tough to find a winner, pro or anti, for debate club members on this one especially since a person is deemed innocent until proven guilty in this country.

To effect change, those who believe that an accused person should not be let back into school will have to keep the pressure on to change policy, if that’s possible.

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