NDP Leader and Education Critic Lorraine Michael wants to know why the English School District did not use its powers of suspension under the Schools Act in the recent incident at Stephenville High School. Michael (MHA, St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi) says that in early February, demonstrations were held at the school because a male student accused of the sexual assault of three female students was being allowed in the school. This occurred despite an outcry from students and parents that the girls who made the accusations felt unsafe, as did others.
Today in Question Period, Michael said the school board spokesperson claimed that they had no choice in the matter because the student, by law, has the right to attend classes.
“I ask the Minister of Education, why did the school board not use its powers of suspension under the Schools Act, which recognizes the right to an education, in order to immediately ensure a safe and caring learning environment for the students?” Michael said.
Michael says the Schools Act allows for school boards to offer alternative arrangements, such as home schooling or online learning, when they deem it necessary to have students removed from the school for the safety of staff and students.
Michael asked the minister if he was speaking to the school board about why they did not take immediate action at the beginning of the situation.
Michael continued that the Minister said he was going to make changes to the Schools Act so that a situation like this one would not happen again. She asked what changes he is specifically thinking of, since school boards seem already to have the power required.
“The situation that occurred at Stephenville High is one that could occur again overnight,” Michael said. “Clarity of the language in the Schools Act is needed urgently.”
“I ask the Minister, how quickly is he going to act to ensure that the English School Board knows it has the power to act in situations similar to that at Stephenville High School?” Michael said.