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Anti-violence advocate welcomes amendment on temporary removal of a student moving forward

Bernice Hancock, executive director with the Community Education Network, is seen addressing members of the Stephenville Rotary Club at Days Inn on Wednesday.
Bernice Hancock

While it’s not a done deal yet, Bernice Hancock is pleased to see that an amendment to the Provincial Schools Act dealing with the temporary removal of a student is moving forward quickly.

The amendment, now making its way in the House of Assembly, will offer a new tool for administrators for handling cases when a student’s presence at a school is considered to be of harm to students and staff.

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The change to legislation was called for after it became an issue back in February, when students and parents of students at Stephenville High School protested the presence of a student accused of sexual assault. In that case, the student was ultimately kept home.

While the assaults didn’t take place at the school, there was a strong concern by students at the school about the accused attending the same school as them, causing risk to the victims.

Hancock, who chairs the Southwest Coalition to End Violence and is co-chair of the Bay St. George Status of Women Council, said the amendment seems to be a common sense approach to ensure safety in the schools in the province.

She said safe and caring schools is always being promoted, so this change will allow administration to assure everyone’s safety when incidents like this arise, from the victims to the accused – as that person could also be in danger.

Hancock said there is also a provision that the student removed from the school can continue their education.

“When something like this happens it’s not a good situation for anyone involved, so this will help ensure the same type of situation won’t happen at any school in the province,” she said.

She said one thing that’s wanted is due process and in the case in Stephenville, the person had serious charges laid against him.

Hancock said it’s also important to have checks and balances in place so that this new legislation is not used to be a detriment to people with intellectual disabilities who deserve to be treated with the same respect as everyone else.

The new option for administrators would legally remove the student from the school.

The proposed amendment to the act – given second reading in the House of Assembly Tuesday afternoon – does not spell out the exact circumstances whereby a child could, or would, be removed. That level of detail will come in the policies still to be developed by the English and French-language school districts.

This change is part of a broader review of the act the government is working on, which could take another six to eight months to complete.

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