Arwyn Thomas was appalled at what some students found funny during a talk about sexual health at her school.
“There were guys behind me making rape jokes during the consent presentation,” said Thomas, a Kalamalka Secondary School student.
Following this and recent news of the alleged sexual abuse of a West Kelowna student prompted Thomas and upwards of 60 others to walk out of class Monday.
In support of the nationwide Making Waves Walkout for Consent movement, a large group of the Coldstream youth left classes at 10 a.m. and held a peaceful call to action in front of the school.
“We’re walking out to bring attention to the fact that too many of us don’t feel safe in our own school,” student Stephanie Lu told the crowd.
“We want to provide a safe learning and living environment for everyone. A space where we feel heard. A space where we may express ourselves free of judgement.”
Classmate Cassie Defoor added: “Where we don’t have to walk the hallways in fear. And where I don’t hear rape jokes at the consent presentation. We want responsive and accountable administration.”
Grade 12 student Jaimie White helped organize the walkout with those who spoke as she would like to see such consent presentations given to younger, “more impressionable” audiences in elementary school.
“The main goals of the movement are for the administration to take us more seriously and to hopefully work towards a more suitable course of action to give to perpetrators of sexual assault, for consent and sexual health education to be more incorporated in the curriculum from K-12, and most importantly for every student to feel safe in school, free of fear of sexual harassment and to know they have people they can reach out to,” said White.
Vice-principal Brad Krahn applauded the youth for making a stand and taking the time to talk to the organizers and hear their concerns.
“We support that right to be able to protest and say what they want to say.”
While healthy living is part of the curriculum in schools and additional presentations are brought to the students, Krahn agreed that more may be needed to further educate students on their rights and responsibilities.
“It is an issue that we should be looking at,” he said.
Despite brief rain and intense winds, the bulk of students stood outside for over an hour to demonstrate their point.