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Darlington students walk out of Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form in protest

DOZENS of students walked out of Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College in Darlington today in protest over the handling of alleged sexual assaults.

Around 85 students gathered with posters and banners in Stanhope Park and started chanting “No means no” and “We will not be silenced.”

The protest was to raise awareness after a number of students alleged the college did not take reports of sexual assault seriously.

Read more: Live updates as students at Darlington sixth form stage mass walkout

Students chanted “We are not victims. We are survivors.” Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

In response, Tim Fisher, Principal of QE Sixth Form College said issues of sexual harassment and assault are “important concerns for society and we share the view that they should be given urgent attention”.

The students then stood by the entrance of the college and chanted “Unconscious people don’t want tea,” referring to a video that went viral in 2015, explaining the concept of consent.

The students aim to raise awareness of the issue and they have set up a GoFundMe page to raise awareness of the current support system’s claimed inadequacy and to raise money so that students have access to personal safety alarms if they feel they need them while walking home in the dark during winter months.

One student, Violet said: “The laws around sexual assault and rape in America are actually better than in the UK.”

A student who didn’t want to be named said: “It’s an important subject that needs more attention.

“The government also doesn’t take it seriously.”

One student who says she has been a victim of sexual assault said: “I’ve been to the college about this twice and the support is not adequate.

“I had to go out of my way to get support and was left disappointed.”

Another student said: “I think a lot of people don’t realise what actually classes as sexual assault and sexual harassment.

“QE is good at pushing this kind of thing under the rug.”

Another student who wished not to be identified said: “I think it’s great that so many people have gathered here because no one takes this kind of thing seriously.”

Read more: Darlington sixth form college issues statement after 85 students stage walkout

The Northern Echo: Students walk through the park chanting "We will not be silenced. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTStudents walk through the park chanting “We will not be silenced. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Tim Fisher, Principal of QE Sixth Form College said: “Clearly, issues of sexual harassment and assault are important concerns for society and we share the view that they should be given urgent attention.

“The College works sensitively with students to raise awareness and offer support.

“We have robust systems in place and all reports and disclosures are dealt with carefully, on an individual basis, in conjunction with key agencies including the police and support services.

“All incidents that we have been made aware of have been dealt with appropriately.

“We understand the strength of young people’s feelings and, while the protest involved some individuals not associated with the College, we will continue to be an organisation that encourages our students to express their views constructively.”

The Northern Echo: Posters were handed out by the Socialist Worker Student Society. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPosters were handed out by the Socialist Worker Student Society. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

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Darlington MP Peter Gibson said: “I respect everyone’s right to peaceful protest.

“I trust that the events that have triggered this walkout are being thoroughly investigated by the college and the appropriate authorities.

“I look forward to speaking with the college Principal and I would welcome the opportunity to meet with the protesters.”

The crowd gathered and walked through the park while chanting “No means no” and “We are not victims. We are survivors.”

Read more: New Year’s Honours: Why this Middlesbrough doctor is to receive an MBE

The Northern Echo: Students are not happy with the way the college currently handles reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTStudents are not happy with the way the college currently handles reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

The students then stood by the entrance of the college and chanted “Unconscious people don’t want tea,” referring to a video that went viral in 2015, explaining the concept of consent.

The students aim to raise awareness of the issue and they have set up a GoFundMe page to raise awareness of the current support system’s claimed inadequacy and to raise money so that students have access to personal safety alarms if they feel they need them while walking home in the dark during winter months.

The protest was organised by QE Survivor Walk, a non-profit organisation protesting the safety conditions for sexual assault and rape survivors.

The GoFundMe page states: “Many of the students at QE have reported being sexually assaulted, physically assaulted, harassed and raped, a lot of this we feel has not been dealt with by college properly hence why we are protesting. Hopefully we can keep people safer.”

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