“One is too many”

“One is too many”

New regional ombudswoman addresses sexual misconduct complaints

By Ruby Pratka

Local Journalism Initiative

Complaints of sexual misconduct in elementary and high schools in the region will be treated “with the highest priority,” regional student ombudswoman for Estrie and Chaudière-Appalaches Caroline Audette has said.

Audette said her office has received five such complaints since she took office in August. Details surrounding the complaints, such as where the alleged incidents occurred and whether they concerned misconduct by a student or staff member, weren’t available due to confidentiality concerns. “Each complaint [of sexual violence] is one too many,” she said.

Audette took office at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year after the entry into force of Bill 9, which created a provincewide school ombuds office, headed by Jean-François Bernier, and 17 regional ombuds offices. Ombudsmen and ombudswomen are now appointed by Education Minister Bernard Drainville on the advice of a selection committee; before Bill 9, they were appointed by school boards and service centres. Their duties remain the same – when a parent or student believes a school has failed to provide adequate services, they can lodge a complaint with the ombudsman, who will first determine whether the complaint files within their remit, then listen to both sides and recommend solutions. Parents and students can also approach the ombuds office for information and referral requests. Audette said her office had received 91 information or referral requests and processed 34 formal complaints since August. Many complaints involved intervention plans for students with disabilities or concerns around the class a child was placed in.

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