ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- A provincial youth advocate says students at a Newfoundland high school have courageously called for action in the wake of multiple sexual assault allegations -- and the students must be heard.

Jackie Lake Kavanagh, Newfoundland and Labrador's child and youth advocate, says policies and legislation must change to deal with allegations like the ones that have shaken Stephenville High School.

She says victims are increasingly encouraged to speak up and educators must be equipped to react in ways that ensure everyone's safety.

Students at Stephenville High protested Wednesday after at least three girls faced the return to school of a male student they say attacked them in separate incidents.

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District confirms the boy is accused of sexual assault but says his name and other details are safeguarded under youth justice laws.

Officials also say they'd need a court order to remove the male student, who has chosen not to resume classes at Stephenville High -- at least for now.

Kavanagh said the district doesn't have the tools to address such issues, but needs to get them.

"Young people in Stephenville are stating publicly that they need and expect change. They have courageously named it. Collectively, we now need to listen and act to make necessary changes on a provincial level. The voices of young people will be critical in this change process," she said in a statement.