Alleged sexual abuse between students at Okanagan elementary school has parents in turmoil
The parents of an elementary student in the north Okanagan have gone public with a story of alleged sexual abuse committed against their young daughter.
“My daughter woke up on Nov. 14 not wanting to go to school,” the girl’s mom told Global News. “Upon asking her why she didn’t want to go to school she proceeded to tell me she didn’t want to use the bathroom with another little girl.”
The alleged abuse started in the fall of 2017.
“It started as her helping my daughter pull down her pants and passing the toilet paper to wipe herself and slowly over the months progressed into sexual touching,” the girl’s mom said.
With both the alleged offender and victim being so young, Global News is not revealing any names of the students to protect their privacy – nor the names of their parents, the name of the school the girls attend or their ages other than to say the alleged offender is just a few years older than the victim.
The alleged abuse has left the parents of the younger girl in turmoil.
“She didn’t have a lot of words to communicate what was happening, she used dolls to show me what was going on,” the girl’s mom said.
RCMP were notified immediately as was the school district.
The older girl was suspended temporarily while an investigation took place.
But it’s only now, nearly four months later that other parents at the school are learning about what took place, which has many of them upset.
“It’s just not right, we should be informed, we send our kids there,” one parent, whose daughter attends the same school, said.
The parent told Global News she’s disappointed that the school district didn’t send a letter to parents until last week, after a media story about the alleged abuse.
She said the letter is vague and doesn’t talk about exact safety measures in place to protect students.
“We get informed when a child has head lice in the class but for something this big, it’s hush, hush and nobody tells us anything,” she said.
The school district declined a request by Global News for an interview. It did, however, send Global an e-mail. In it, it said the district can’t get into specifics due to privacy reasons. When asked in an e-mail exchange, why it took so long for the district to inform all of the parents at the school, it said that if students are thought to be unsafe and in need of protection, the parents of those students would be informed privately.
A spokesperson for the district also told Global News over the phone that a safety plan was immediately put in place after the alleged incident came to light to protect students.
Both the students are back at school. The victim’s parents told Global News the district is not doing enough to protect their daughter.
“I want policies and procedures changed for sexual abuse in schools,” the victim’s mom said. “I don’t want any parent to have to go through and fight for what I have had to fight for my daughter, it’s wrong.
The following is a statement issued to Global News by Peter Jory, a superintendent with the North Okanagan Shuswap School District:
“While we are unable to respond to the particular details of any student matter, what I can speak to is the process and approach to providing care and support to students in our schools.
We approach all situations mindful of individual circumstances and best practices for safety of students and staff in the district. Planning for student safety, including understanding and addressing sexual behaviour of children under the age of 12, is undertaken by a team of professionals based at our schools and district, and involves professionals in the community with expertise in these complex matters. Safety support plans may be created and adapted as necessary to meet individual needs.
The district also reached out to the Ministry of Education’s provincial experts in the field of Student Safety, Risk Assessment and Trauma Response for additional guidance and support.
“The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District is dedicated to ensuring the safety and emotional well-being of all of our students. When mistakes or errors have occurred in any safety plan, we have taken full responsibility and made further steps to ensure student needs are being met. As always, we are determined to work in partnership with our parents to find appropriate solutions.”
–Peter Jory, Superintendent/CEO
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