A small group of students at Bowness High School are speaking out about what they call a big communication breakdown that left them feeling unsafe at school.
Last Wednesday, a student was arrested after reportedly bringing a gun to the northwest Calgary school, and students say they feel administration withheld important information about the situation.
The students walked out of class Tuesday just after 10 am to protest how the situation was handled.
Student Kate Sorge, 16, says she first learned about a student being arrested from rumors that were then confirmed by a CBC News article.
But Sorge says students and parents were only told that administration had assisted police in an investigation and that students were always safe – they were never told anything about a gun.
“We should be the first to hear about an incident like this, and when it comes from the news first, it just feels like they were keeping things from us,” said the Grade 10 student.
“All along, they’ve been telling us that we were ‘never in harm’s way,’ and that’s a direct quote from the email – and that would be incorrect, because a gun in school is most definitely in harm’s way.”
Her father, Blair Sorge, says he supports his daughter and her peers in calling out the administration.
“The kids should have the opportunity to say they were uncomfortable. If you want to treat them like adults, you have to give them the information, and the information that was provided by the school was really limited,” he said.
“The fact that nobody from the school is saying anything to the students, simply put: that’s unacceptable.… You’re telling us that the reason why you can not give us any information is it’s an active, ongoing investigation, and yet the police are coming out and informing the media as to what’s happening. “
Student Destiny Weaver says the incident makes her feel students are being “gaslighted” by administration.
“I feel like kids were not really thought of when they were doing this process,” said the 16-year-old. “It felt very unsafe. It felt that at any moment, any one of my friends or myself could have been hurt. And that thought alone scares me.”
Kate Sorge says she feels everyone can learn a lesson about communication and what happens when communication is mishandled.
“There are situations you hear about in the news every day about people with guns and people with guns in schools, and that’s never safe – ever. So regardless of what the purpose of the student with the gun was, it was dangerous right off the bat, “she said.
“The lesson here is we have to focus on the system and how are we going to communicate danger to the school and to the parents next time? Because this could have gone bad really fast, and they essentially lied to us.”
She says that while she’s disappointed there was not a larger turnout for the walkout, she understands some students feared repercussions from administration for participating.
“We’m just speaking for them because they’re afraid that coming out here is going to get them suspended, which is not OK, because we should be able to speak our mind and say what we really, truly feel about the situation without getting suspended. “
In a statement to CBC News, the Calgary Board of Education said Bowness High School staff took direction from CPS during the incident, and that school administration is working to address concerns of students and families.