More than 60 students walked out of a northwest Calgary middle school Wednesday morning to protest against sexual harassment.
The group held signs and made speeches outside Twelve Mile Coulee Middle school, which is located at 65 Tuscany Hills Rd N.W.
Ellee McInnes, a Grade nine student who planned the event, says she was inspired to organize the walk out after learning about the woman murdered in the U.K.
Metropolitan Police officer, Wayne Couzens, was charged with the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman who vanished March 3 while walking home in London. Her body was found a week later.
The case has sparked a national outcry and a heated debate on women’s safety.
At 14 years old, McInnes says she has had her own experiences of unwanted touching.
“I feel like it’s extremely common … I’ve been groped,” she said.
” And I feel like to the degree that it’s at, it should be talked about and it should be educated on many students.”
She says she hopes this walk out also sparks conversation with her peers.
“I hope to empower others to be able to stand up for themselves and to bring up courage and have hope that they’re not alone,” she said.
“Something should be changed, this shouldn’t be such a not thought about topic for males and females and also those who have had experiences to stay hidden.”
McInness’s mother, Melanie Isabelle, was also at the protest and says she supports her daughter speaking up.
“They’ve had enough of being sexualised, had enough of being abused and they are coming out in groups and loud and they’re ready to fight for themselves,” she said.
She says sexual abuse is something that has been happening forever, and women and girls shouldn’t feel victimized.
“Parents need to be aware. Schools need to be aware. Teachers, friend groups defend each other, work with each other to end this type of culture because it needs to be over,” she said.
School and CBE responds
Derek Rakowski, Principal of Twelve Mile Coulee Middle school, wrote a letter to parents/guardians ahead of the protest to let them know they had met with students about the walkout.
“As an educator and school leader, I also think we need to use this to engage in continuing conversations around these issues, as this is a great teachable moment for parents and teachers to utilize with the students,” she wrote in the letter.
In an emailed statement to CBC News, the Calgary Board of Education said while they recognize the right of students to advocate for important causes, this is not a “CBE-sanctioned event.”
“While we support student voice and engagement … We will not encourage participation, nor will we prevent students from walking out or re-entering the school at the end of the protest,” wrote the CBE.
As well, the CBE said Twelve Mile Coulee Middle school and Area Office will now be reviewing expectations for behaviour and conduct with the entire school community.