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Students Are Walking Out of School to Demand Protection From Sexually Abusive Teachers

Toronto high school students plan to walk out of class Friday to show the provincial government that more needs to be done to protect students from teachers who engage in sexual abuse or misconduct.

Ontario passed legislation Tuesday to enhance the Protecting Students Act to ensure a teacher’s license will be revoked if they are found guilty of groping or sexually touching students. But students like Harbord Collegiate Institute’s Sara Escallon-Sotomayor say the change isn’t enough.

Escallon-Sotomayor is part of a movement called Not Just Rumours, a student-led initiative that is working to reform laws around disciplinary action for teachers guilty of sexual abuse or misconduct. About a month ago, the students launched a petition calling for changes to the Protecting Students Act. The petition has more than 17,000 signatures.

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"There are still some things that are lacking in legislation that we think are necessary to make schools a safer environment," the 16-year-old told The Star.

The students wrote a letter to Ontario Education Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris, asking for four items to be addressed, according to The Star.

They asked that Ontario College of Teachers develop policies that would help its members recognize and address professional misconduct, as well understand its associated disciplinary actions.

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They also asked for new tools for teachers, administrators, and students to assess when reservations of misconduct should be reported, and for the development of protection and supports for survivors of sexual abuse and their families.

Finally, they asked that all teachers found guilty of misconduct or abuse have their teaching licenses revoked.

The amendment announced earlier this week included the license revocation, so the students would now like to see real promises made on the reporting tools they requested.

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"We’d like a timeline by the legislative assembly to see when they’d make the other changes we asked of them," Escallon-Sotomayor told The Star. "We think this is very important, because it unites communities around the issues, and it unites students around the organizations that affect us."

Students from at least three Toronto high schools will take part in Friday’s walkouts, according to The Star.

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