High school students in Lennoxville walk out to protest against bullying

Students at Alexander Galt Regional High School abandoned their afternoon classes to demand action from school administrators, two days after a 15-year-old girl was allegedly threatened at knifepoint by a fellow student.

Police investigating after 15-year-old girl was allegedly threatened at knifepoint by another student, Tuesday

About 300 students at Alexander Galt High School in Lennoxville staged an afternoon protest Thursday, demanding administrators do more to stop bullying. (Spencer Van Dyk/CBC)

Chanting "make school safe," about 300 students at Alexander Galt Regional High School in Lennoxville, Que., abandoned their afternoon classes on Thursday to protest against bullying.

The demonstration was held in response to what they call a lack of action from the administrators at the school and school board to incidents of bullying and intimidation.

The latest came on Tuesday, when a 15-year-old female student was allegedly threatened at knifepoint by a male student.

The alleged victim told Radio-Canada there were about a dozen witnesses to the incident, and a teacher confiscated the knife.

Police are investigating the incident, but so far, no charges have been laid.

"I feel like the school is out of hand," said Grade 9 student Olivia Chute. "We should be safer. It could be me. I don't want this to happen to anyone I go to school with."

Chute said there have already been half a dozen public fights this academic year, and she thinks the issue is being overshadowed by other concerns about student behaviour like smoking.

"When there is bullying, the bully either gets in trouble for a little bit, or gets suspended, or they don't do anything about it," she said. 

"We don't get heard, and the principals don't do anything about it," said another student, 14-year-old Jazmine Mcdonald. 

There are 900 students at the high school.

School board to review its anti-bullying policy

The chair of the Eastern Townships School Board, Michael Murray, said the board already has policies in place to deal with bullying and intimidation. (Rebecca Martel/CBC)
The chair of the Eastern Townships School Board, Michael Murray, said he was shocked to hear about Tuesday's alleged incident, and he said the board will review its anti-bullying policy.

"When students demonstrate like that and large numbers of them feel concerned, we take it very seriously and we pursue the issue," he said. 

Several students were upset that the boy who allegedly made the threat was only suspended for five days. 

Murray said the suspension is the first step in the process as the board figures out other steps to take.

He said the administration is taking the issue seriously and trying to be proactive.

"We want to make sure that whatever the problem may be and however deeply rooted, that we get to the bottom of it and correct anything that needs correcting," he also said. 

Parents upset they weren't notified sooner

Some parents were also at the protest.

Victoria Berwick, who has a daughter in Grade 7, said she called the school to find out what was happening with the walkout and was told students were already returning to class.

However, there were more than 150 students still outside when she drove by.

Berwick said it should not have taken so long — more than 24 hours — for parents to be notified about Tuesday's alleged incident.

"Why not just ease our minds?" she asked. "I would like my daughter and the other students to feel safe at school."

Murray said the school board waited to notify parents as they tried to determine exactly what happened on Tuesday. 

Berwick said her daughter, who is new to the school, told her mother about one girl at school who eats her lunch in the bathroom to avoid being harassed.

Another parent, Amber Stremmelaar, who has children in Grades 8 and 10, said she's always considered the school to be fairly safe, and this is the first time she's heard of such bullying incidents.

She said the letter from the school only said the board couldn't comment because of the ongoing police investigation.

With files from Quebec AM and Radio-Canada


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