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School board welcomes Quebec probe into sexual abuse

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At least one school board is welcoming news of an investigation into allegations of sexual violence at schools.

Some parents of students at Massey-Vanier High School in Cowansville say the school board is not doing enough to protect their kids from sexual violence.

Those accusations and others from other schools are what prompted Education minister Bernard Drainville to launch a investigation into sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour at the elementary and high school levels in all Quebec schools.

The Eastern Townships School Board, which is responsible for Massey-Vanier High School, welcomed the move.

"The minister mentioned in this announcement that the number of complaints had been increasing and I think that merits looking into quite apart from anything that's happening in our school," said the school board's chairperson, Michael Murray.

The Quebec Liberal Party said it would support the investigation.

"How come we heard that people actually raised their hands and tried to find help and, unfortunately, no one helped them in school?" said Marwah Rizqy, the opposition critic on education.

"I told Mr. Drainville he will have my entire collaboration because we need to fight the system and [ensure] the kids are safe in school."

But Quebec Solidaire Education Critic Ruba Ghazal said the province doesn't need an investigation; it needs a law, similar to the legislation for CEGEPs and universities aimed at strengthening measures preventing sexual violence.

Melanie Lemay, co-founder of Quebec Contre les Violences Sexuelles. (Joe Lofaro/CTV News)

La Voix des jeunes compte (Young Voices Count), a group fighting against sexual abuse, agrees. It said it has been asking for a law for the past five years, adding that more services for students are needed province-wide.

"We need to train the professionals working in schools to be able to receive testimonies of youth who have been experiencing sexual violence either at school or at home -- we need this law to make sure that if an adult is not acting and helping a survivor, they are going to have consequences," said Melanie Lemay, an advocate of the group.

"We need to make sure also that we stop the silence."

At the beginning of the school year, a new student ombudsperson will handle complaints in schools — another move the government has said will help keep students safe.

Ombudsperson Jean-Francois Bernier is responsible for ensuring the rights of 1.3 million Quebec students and parents are respected within the public and private education network. 

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