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Canada St. Michael’s board says school’s leadership has its full support

St. Michael's College School on Nov. 20, 2018.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The board of directors at St. Michael’s College School has expressed its united support for the school’s principal and president in the face of a police investigation into alleged assaults and sexual assaults at the all-boys private school − a probe that has so far seen six students charged.

The board – made up primarily of Basilian priests – said in a statement on Wednesday that president Rev. Jefferson Thompson, a director, and principal Greg Reeves have “the support of the board for how this situation is being handled.”

The vote of confidence is the first public comments from the eight-member board and comes one week after news broke of an alleged sexual assault perpetrated by a group of students against one of their classmates. Since then, police have said they are investigating a total of six incidents connected to the school. The other five include one other alleged sexual assault, three alleged assaults, including one with a belt, and one alleged threatening incident.

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Six boys, aged 14 and 15, have now been arrested and charged with assault, gang sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon. They cannot be identified under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and all have been released on bail. All the charges stem from one incident.

Mr. Reeves learned about that incident, in which a boy was allegedly sexually assaulted with an object, on the evening of Nov. 12. He did not inform police. It was only when an officer arrived at the school two days later, after media inquiries, that Mr. Reeves brought the incident up. That decision has sparked rebukes from the community and police.

Inspector Domenic Sinopoli, head of the force’s sex-crimes unit, told reporters that he believes the alleged sexual assault should have been reported to police immediately.

On Wednesday, board chair and alumnus Michael Forsayeth said the board stood behind the school’s leadership while condemning the incidents as “offensive to everything we stand for and to the values we strive to instill in our students.”

Mr. Reeves and Father Thompson are men “of the highest integrity and continue to have our trust to lead us forward,” the statement continued.

An alumni meeting was held on Tuesday evening, and Mr. Forsayeth noted that the leaders received a “standing ovation” from parents of current and former students.

"I believe that Father Thompson and Mr. Reeves have their overwhelming support,” Mr. Forsayeth wrote.

The Globe and Mail’s requests to speak with the board or have questions answered, on both Tuesday and Wednesday, were declined.

Mr. Reeves told The Globe on Sunday that he didn’t notify police right away because he was dealing with a separate incident that day, for which he had called police seeking advice. “I had set up four expulsion meetings on Tuesday morning, and at that point, I couldn’t deal with that video at that moment,” he said. Eight students were expelled, and one suspended, for two incidents. Another reason he offered for the disclosure lag was that the victim hadn’t told his parents.

The Ontario College of Teachers requires its members to report suspected sexual abuse or neglect of students whenever they become aware of it. Mr. Reeves is listed as certified with the college, which private-school teachers and administrators can elect to be part of, although it is not required. Still, the board is standing by “how the situation is being handled," Mr. Forsayeth wrote. “As a school community, we want to ensure that these incidents do not happen again.”

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