School board reacts to last week’s student protest in St Catharines over sexual assault and harassment

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Published October 15, 2021 at 11:29 am

Nearly a week after Sir Winston Churchill students walked out of their St Catharines high school to protest what they said was a weak administrative response to an incident of sexual assault, the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) has issued a statement.

Last Friday, the students at both Churchill and Thorold Secondary School took to the lawns and sidewalk around their school holding up signs that said “End Rape Culture” and “I should feel safe at SWC.”

Upon hearing of the situation, St Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik immediately threw his full support behind the students.

“To the young women leading the march: you are seen, you are heard and your leadership is going to make change,” said Sendzik. “To the young men who are joining in to create safe places for young women to go to school, we see you too – and you are on the right side of this. You need to speak up as well and use your voice to support our young women.”

Finally, yesterday (October 14), DSBN Director of Education Warren Hoshizaki spoke to the issue, saying the board supported the students, as well.

“Through these student actions, we heard a hard truth,” said Hoshizaki. “That there are students within the DSBN who do not feel safe at their schools, and there are students who do not feel heard. Student safety and student voices are always important to us, so when students tell us they are feeling this way, we must listen, address it, and work to make sure students feel heard.”

Hoshizaki continued, “What we heard last week is that as a school board, we need to make changes when it comes to sexual harassment and assault.”

Hoshizaki noted that the massive walk-out was a catalyst for changes in policies.

What we heard last week is that as a school board, we need to make changes when it comes to sexual harassment and assault.

“To start, we are currently reviewing our reporting processes to make them simpler and more accessible for students,” he said. “Our curriculum team will be looking at how education about healthy relationships and sexual harassment and assault are delivered.”

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