EXCLUSIVE / The crisis of sharing photos of a sexual nature that occurred at the Seminary of the Marist Fathers in Quebec last spring urges the minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge to tighten the screws to the private schools of Quebec.
Having it on his desk since the beginning of January the report of the investigation that he ordered on this crisis, the minister Roberge has assigned to the Sun that he was going to implement its main recommendations, and even go further. “It is a report that takes a critical look at the crisis management of the institution”, he said in an interview.
Mr. Roberge has no intention to punish the leadership of the Seminar, because it would have committed no breach of the current act. He does not want to do the “micromanagement” and require that the direction of expel this or that student. “There is nothing that allows me to believe in this moment that someone is in danger. I have no plans to join the internal management of the private schools. My job is to give tags.”
The main concern of the minister is rather to avoid that such a situation repeats itself. “The pressure on young people to undress or to make gestures of a sexual nature, it is increasing. It is necessary to act.”
The minister said the report contains two main recommendations. The first is to provide training and to organize prevention activities on the exchange of sexting and bullying in the private schools. At the end of the year 2018, the minister has reached an official of the ministry of Education to support the network of private schools in these activities.
The report also recommends creating a neutral body to deal with complaints from students. In this chapter, the minister has already announced its intention to improve the protection of the student, which will also be extended to the network of private schools, which is not currently the case.
“But we want to go further than that. I have less of a hold on the private schools [public schools],” said Mr. Roberge. Over the next few months, it intends to amend the Law on private education to be able to intervene when serious cases of violence and intimidation are reported. “The minister has a power, that to withdraw the funding or the permit of a school, but there are no other levers, no in-between.”
The minister also intends to require to be regularly updated plans for addressing bullying and violence in schools, so that they do not sleep in a drawer. “I intend to make closer follow-up of these plans. At this time, there is no verification that the plan is truly followed and applied. We will give them the tools”, he promises.
Mr. Roberge is also banking on the new courses of sex education, obligatory since this year, to educating young people about the danger of sexting and the consequences of the dissemination of nude images. “Prevention campaigns, even if they are not 100% effective, we should not give up.”
If the episode of the Seminary of the Marist Fathers, due to its importance in the media and the judiciary, and will be remembered for “the wrong reasons”, Mr. Roberge judge that he will still have been a “wake-up social on the severity of the actions that have been posed”. “It has brought, I am certain, many discussions in the houses,” says the one who has discussed it with his own teenagers.
Last spring, six teenagers of 12 and 13 years of age attending the Seminary of the Marist Fathers have been arrested by the police of Quebec, to have widely disseminated intimate photographs of their classmates. Since the judicial proceedings were continuing and the cohabitation between the defendant and the victims in the school has been very difficult.
A REPORT CAVIARDÉ
The ministry of Education will make public the investigation report on the Seminary of the Marist Fathers Friday at 16h. The Sun had made a request for access to information to get it.
This report, which explains in detail the course of events and that contains many testimonies, however, will be largely caviardé.
“It’s about what happened at the board of directors. There are the names of the students, parents, administrators. These information are useful for me to understand the relevance of the recommendations, but they will not be disseminated for reasons of protection of the personal life,” explains the minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge.
As he wanted to demonstrate “transparency”, the minister has accepted that the report is partially available. “By making public several extracts of the report, I’ll go further than my legal obligations.”