Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Everyone's Scared': Alleged Sex Offender's Return to School Sparks Protest

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Everyone's Scared': Alleged Sex Offender's Return to School Sparks Protest

Article excerpt

Fear grips school after alleged sex assaults

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STEPHENVILLE, N.L. - A series of alleged sex assaults. A frightening two-hour police lockdown as Mounties patrolled outside classrooms. And now a student-led protest Wednesday to give voice to at least three girls who faced the prospect of being in school with the boy they say attacked them.

Stress is running high at Stephenville High School, named for the pretty seaside town of 8,000 people in southwestern Newfoundland.

"Everyone's scared," said Faith Young, a Grade 12 student who helped organize the day of action in support of the alleged victims. Participants wore symbolic safety pins as a show of strength for those struggling to cope.

Those familiar with the allegations say at least three girls at the Grade 9 to 12 school say the same male student sexually assaulted them in separate incidents offsite.

Young said she saw the accused student leaving through a side door last week after he was permitted to write mid-term exams in a room separated from other classmates.

"It made me angry. I was disgusted knowing that he was allowed back in our school despite the fact there are other girls who can't even come to school for the fact that they might see him."

On Friday afternoon, during a still-unexplained lockdown, students were kept in classrooms and other parts of the building for more than two hours as police circled. Local RCMP have released few details about an "external threat" that prompted the reaction and say they're still investigating. There were no injuries as students were safely evacuated.

It's not clear to what extent, if any, that unsettling incident was linked to the alleged sexual assaults.

Education officials say they'd need a court order to remove the male student who has chosen not to resume classes at Stephenville High -- at least for now.

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District confirms he is accused of sexual assault and faces charges involving one female student and "possibly others."

Details of the charges along with his identity are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the district said in a statement. There are limited circumstances under provincial law which allow a student to be removed from school, it explained.

"A criminal charge, however serious, does not authorize removal," it says. …

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