Peaceful assembly poster. Submitted photo

Peaceful assembly poster. Submitted photo

H. J. Cody students and staff communicate their way to resolution

Tweak narrative to a peaceful assembly

With intentions to emphasize the peaceful nature of starting a conversation, H. J. Cody High School students chose to rename their peaceful protest to a peaceful assembly instead.

During the lunch hour on Jan. 20, the Sylvan Lake RCMP attended to a scene outside a local business on 50 St., stated a Jan. 24 RCMP news release. Officers obtained a video that depicted a male youth being assaulted by two other male youths.

The 16-year-old victim who sustained significant injuries during the assault was taken to an area hospital, where he was treated and released.

The Sylvan Lake RCMP has charged two 15-year-old males with assault causing bodily harm. Both accused have been released to appear in Red Deer Provincial Youth Court on Mar. 24.

This incident is just another example of the kind of occurrences the students are raising voices against. A few days following the assault, students united to start conversations around social issues that they say have been a long-standing community issue.

Initially scheduled at the pier and Lakeshore Dr. the students will now gather at the town hall gazebo Feb. 4 at 10 a.m. to share speeches around topics such as anti-bullying, anti-racism, anti-violence, and anti-sexual assault.

“We spoke to RCMP and they said the name (peaceful protest) seems more violent, so we changed the name of it to ‘peaceful assembly’ and the name of our group is ‘Let’s Start the Conversation’,” said assembly organizer Elissa Picken.

“The assembly is really just trying to get the message out about bullying and harassment at school. We want change not only from the staff but from the students as well. What happened with the incident at Circle K, the school had no control over. I’m more focused on what happens within the walls of H.J. Cody and I’m just trying to show other students that not only are the staff tired of their antics but so are other students,” she added.

The students and administration are “working their way through communication,” with the administration genuinely listening and responding to student concerns and requests, said Kurt Sacher, superintendent for Chinook’s Edge School Division. Sacher finds it to be the ideal way of moving forward.

“I can assure you that the administration has already met with the students that were concerned,” said Sacher. “Like any high school in Alberta, there are still some areas for growth and for ways to do things differently, do things better and I’m sure the school and the staff will address those things,” he added.

Community members are invited to join the peaceful assembly planned by Sylvan Lake youths 14 to18 years of age, said Olivia Taylor, Grade 12 student at H. J. Cody High School.

“Only come to be educated and willing to hear speeches concerning the following topics of anti-bullying, anti-racism, anti-violence, anti-sexual assault. This is a peaceful assembly and encourages change within our knowledge of these issues,” said Taylor. “We just want to make sure that it is completely and utterly peaceful and this is just to start the conversation.”