A school walkout led to a ‘very heated’ confrontation between South Okanagan students and adults last week.
A video circulating online shows an adult yelling at students from Oliver’s Southern Okanagan Secondary School (SOSS). This incident was filmed Friday, and now parents are voicing their concerns.
“That was uncalled for. That kind of behaviour doesn’t belong anywhere, especially at a school setting,” said an Oliver parent who referred to himself as Steve.
The Grade 12 student in the video, whose name will not be shared due to privacy reasons, says the woman hurled racist remarks at her and another Punjabi student.
The woman said, ‘I deserve to be in this country, do you?’ She also said, “go home” and “go back to your country.”
“I just kept telling her that I was born here,” said the student, adding she couldn’t believe the woman’s shocking remarks.
In the video, the two go back and forth yelling at each other, until the woman used another slur to describe the student and then walked away.
According to witnesses, the group of adults were at the school in support of their children who had chosen to walk out of classes against mask mandates.
“The group of supporters and parents who were standing outside of the school had no intention or support of whatever this lady had been saying that was racist. It was ridiculous,” said an SOSS student who participated in the walkout. Her name will not be given due to privacy concerns.
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“It was not a protest, it was supporters of students who were choosing to walk out against the mask mandates. It is easy for that to look like a protest, but it wasn’t.”
Witnesses told Global News that when a group of students approached the adults, that is when the situation escalated.
“The students came out hostile and the people on the sidelines were very neutral,” said Steve.
Steve says that on the Monday following the incident, some parents had to pull their kids out of classes.
“There have been students who feel uneasy in the environment of the school, which is sad because this is supposed to be a place where they can go without fear,” he said.
The school district says they are aware of the incident and have been working with SOSS and RCMP.
“We respect that people have a right to protest but when students are targeted it is very difficult to support,” said School District 53 superintendent of schools, Bev Young.
“Even more so when there is any kind of harassment or intimidation or verbal abuse, we don’t support that. Schools need to be a safe place for kids to go to.”
RCMP say that an officer did attend SOSS on Friday but was unaware of this incident at that time.
“There were ‘freedom’ people apparently supporting students that were demonstrating some sort of support for ‘freedom’ people. They were told to stay off school grounds and they did,” said Sgt. Don Wrigglesworth in a statement.
Wrigglesworth said that RCMP will be looking into the incident now that they have been made aware.
“Bottom line is that there are adults in our community with their own selfish agenda, and on the surface, it is very unsettling and appears to have crossed a number of lines,” said Wrigglesworth in a statement.
“If criminal charges are warranted then that avenue will be pursued. The safety of children at school is very important and a place of learning appears to have been violated.”
SOSS’ principal, Tracy Harrington, said in a statement that the school planned to debrief with students on Monday.