A group of Dartmouth-area teens are hoping to shed their school’s reputation as “riot high” and made it clear last night they won’t take no for an answer.

Nine determined students showed up at a Halifax Regional School Board meeting to seek help in solving the violence problem at Cole Harbour District High School, even though they had been dropped from the already busy agenda.

But before students had a chance to hold a protest outside board chambers in downtown Dartmouth, members voted to hear what they had to say after all. Both Cole Harbour and nearby Auburn Drive High faced their fair share of violence this year, including brawls that broke out at both schools in May, leading to several student arrests.

But Courtney Loughran, 17, told the school board it isn’t just violence that’s having a negative impact on all students. “There are many other disruptions and problems at our school,” the Grade 11 student said. “It impairs our learning ability.”

Loughran said concerned students want to see stronger enforcement of school rules, including consistent use of positive effective behaviour supports, commonly called PEBS. The students even started up a Facebook group to promote their cause.

“The majority of the student body at CHDHS is afraid,” reads a post on the social networking site.

Loughran said students have approached everyone from Carole Olsen, superintendent of schools, to Mayor Peter Kelly and provincial politicians in an attempt to come up with a solution to ongoing conflicts.

“You’re feeling a lack of respect among some students so your learning is being disabled,” commented area representative Gina Conrod, pointing to an anti-bullying program called Step Up that could help.

After her presentation, Loughran said she she’s hopeful Cole Harbour District High will become a happier place, with some much-needed work. “I want to know it’s going to be a safe place for my (younger) brother to go.”