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I understand that protests have continued and that a number of students are now going back to classes, although there are plans for some other specific activities on appropriate dates, maybe in months to come. This was also discussed at the meeting today. The principal has taken steps to explain the situation to all students in the school and she has written to all parents about the issue. The students, the principal and the staff met yesterday. It appeared to me, in discussions with the student group that I saw today, that virtually all the problems have largely been resolved. Three student representatives wanted to have further meetings and suggested conflict resolution. I offered the services of Ms Vardon from the Education Department as a more appropriate action. I am not sure what will come from that. They went away, I think, still wanting to use the Conflict Resolution Service; but certainly I expressed the view that they should take up the offer of having someone not in the school but in the system, as Ms Vardon is, to facilitate further meetings between any of the students who want them and the staff and principal.
The students I saw also indicated to me - harking back to what their principal said in relation to tolerance and the fact that there are people at that school, including teachers, who are French nationals - that they had apologised for any of their actions that might have offended the French nationals and had made it quite clear that they were certainly not directed at them. It appears now that they are all working together to ensure that they have due regard for other people's rights. I reiterate the right of people to protest. I understand from my discussions that the issue is largely resolved and that most students are now returning to classes.
I did also stress to the students that, if you continue to protest for too long, people get sick of it and the thing tends to die anyway, and that, having made their point, if they want to continue their protest, they should now look to the need to do it in appropriate ways, rather than just to continue something that has been going on for some time. We all have to have due regard for the need for students to attend classes, which have continued through all of this. I understand that they are thinking about that, and certainly most students are now getting on with the job of attending classes. There are mechanisms, which the students have thought about and which the school has provided. I understand that a box has been provided in one of the rooms of the school in which students can put comments or letters to the French Ambassador. They can protest in that way as well. That is being facilitated by the staff of the school. So, I think that everyone at the school, from what I can see, has been doing all they can to ensure that the democratic right to protest has been respected. I think the thing is petering out, and probably people will now look at getting on with the job of lessons and getting back to work.
MR MOORE: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Mr Stefaniak, in your response you said that you had offered Ms Vardon as an independent mediator. It would seem to me that, if somebody is dealing with a department, a member of the department is not going to be seen as being independent. If this is unsatisfactory to those students, would you be prepared to consider some alternative?