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Students at Airdrie high school walk out of class to protest lack of consent education

Approximately 60 students gathered in front of Bert Church High School in Airdrie to protest of what they feel is a lack of focus on consent education in the Alberta health curriculum.

The honking of cars rang out along East Lake Boulevard on April 7, as drivers showed their support for a student walk out in front of Bert Church High School.

Approximately 60 students gathered in front of the east Airdrie-based school’s main entrance that morning at 10:30 a.m., in protest of what they feel is a lack of focus on consent education in the Alberta health curriculum.

“Basically, I saw the very limited amount of consent ed in the curriculum, and I want there to be more, because it's very important,” said Grade 9 student Jillana Nelles, who helped organize the rally. “If people don't know consent, they don't know how far they can push it.”

Nelles added the school’s staff were aware of the walkout beforehand, and some of her teachers had expressed support for the initiative.

Several of the walkout participants hoisted signs with statements like, ‘It’s a dress, not a yes,’ ‘Protect your students,’ and ‘Keep your hands off my education.’

Chants of “No means no” broke out sporadically among the group, and students cheered whenever a passing motorist honked their horn in a show of solidarity.

Grade 10 student Parker Sawhurst, who also helped organize the event, said a student walk out is a positive way to bring awareness to the need for more consent education in schools.


Sawhurst added she has both witnessed and experienced sexual harassment at school before, and feels more needs to be done to address the issue.

“A bigger approach would definitely help get their attention,” Sawhurst said. “I think how to solve this problem is better consent education.”

Fellow organizer and Grade 10 student Kyla Howey agreed, adding the health curriculum in general is outdated and “not very progressive.”

“I feel it can be expanded on in all kinds of different areas,” Howey said. “Consent is definitely a huge one. There’s a lack of education in general, but there have been a lot of situations at the school that haven’t been handled properly.”

Some of the school’s staff monitored the walkout, including principal Ryan Reed. 

“As the principal, I’m here to ensure the safety of the kids who are exercising this right,” Reed said. “It’s great to see passionate students.”


Kayla McTavish, another Grade 10 student who helped put the walk out together, said she feels consent education could be taught in earlier grades, and does not necessarily need to be restricted to sexual education.

“It can even be something as simple as, ‘that person doesn’t want to hug you.’ I think it’s an important thing to learn and not enough people are learning it,” she said.

Similar walk-outs and student rallies have emerged in other communities in recent months. In Calgary, students at Western Canada High School walked out of class on Nov. 16, 2021 to show support for sexual assault survivors, while a walk out also occurred at Foothills Composite High School in Okotoks on Nov. 25, 2021 to protest rape culture.

When reached for comment about the incidents the students alluded to, RVS replied that the school division has a system in place for students to report incidences of sexual harassment under administrative procedure 350 in the Student Code of Conduct. The procedure allows the student and/or parent/guardian to inform any staff member they feel comfortable with about what happened, and that staff member would inform school administration.

“They would investigate and determine the appropriate next steps,” RVS' email stated. “There are supports at both the school and system level to support students who have been traumatized.

“The division takes this very seriously and is quick to respond and support our students.”


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