Toronto Police have laid charges in two additional alleged assaults at St. Michael’s College School, bringing the total number of criminal cases tied to the all-boys private school to three, and the total number of students charged to seven.
These new developments are the result of a five-week-long police investigation that was sparked by media inquiries, and saw the resignation of both St. Mike’s principal and president. The midtown Toronto school has launched its own internal culture review.
On Wednesday, police also announced that while they had been looking into a total of eight alleged incidents at the school, they have closed their investigations in five of them, without pressing any charges.
Six students were charged last month in relation to an alleged gang sexual assault that took place on Nov. 7, which police say was videotaped and shared on social media. The new round of charges are in relation to two incidents that took place earlier in the semester and allegedly involved some of the same students.
Four of the initial six students charged are now also charged with assault, sexual assault with a weapon and gang sexual assault, in connection with an incident on Oct. 17. And two of those four are additionally charged with assault and assault with a weapon, in connection with an incident on Sept. 18.
A seventh student was charged for the first time Wednesday − also with assault, sexual assault with a weapon and gang sexual assault − in relation to the Oct. 17 incident.
The students were scheduled to appear in court Wednesday, and all have since been released on bail.
The identities of the accused (all of whom are 14 and 15 years old) and the victims are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
At a news conference at Toronto Police headquarters on Wednesday, Inspector Domenic Sinopoli said they only learned of the two earlier cases after the initial charges were laid.
Although it is believed that the alleged sexual assault in October was also videotaped, Insp. Sinopoli said they do not have that video.
He said that after interviews with 60 people, investigations into another five incidents have been closed with no charges laid. In some of those cases, he noted, that was because the alleged victims did not want to co-operate with police.
“If in the future someone comes forward with new information, or if the complainant comes forward and wants to proceed, we will reopen it and revisit,” he said.
Insp. Sinopoli said there is nothing to indicate that these alleged incidents reflect a systemic or historic issue at the school, and stressed that the three cases were all related to one sports team. He also noted that police have determined that there are no grounds for charges against the school’s principal (who has since resigned), or any faculty or coaching staff.
Before stepping down last month, along with the school’s president, principal Greg Reeves had faced criticism for not immediately going to police when he was made aware of a cellphone video of the November incident.
Mr. Reeves had called police on Nov. 12, looking for “advice” about a “bullying” incident at the school that had possibly escalated to assault. Later that evening, he learned about a second incident − the alleged sexual assault − that was taped. He did not inform police.
It was only through media inquiries two days later that police were made aware of the allegations. Mr. Reeves insisted that he had every intention of going to police, had they not approached him on Nov. 14.
When he and the school president, Jefferson Thompson, resigned three weeks ago, they cited a desire to “move forward without distractions.”
On Wednesday, after learning of the additional charges regarding recent incidents at the school, interim school president Andrew Leung called it “another painful and heartbreaking day.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Father Leung said that it was also a “necessary step in our school’s journey as we learn the truth about the terrible incidents that happened and rededicate ourselves to both immediate and long-term change.”
Asked about the status of the students charged, St. Mike’s spokeswoman Lianne Castelino said the school was just informed of the name of the seventh student by Toronto police “and will be undertaking the necessary disciplinary measures and due process.” The other six students have already been expelled.
St. Michael’s is continuing with its own investigation into student conduct, and recently announced a four-member team that will examine the school’s social and cultural practices. The panel includes Debra Pepler, whose research has focused on bullying and victimization among children and adolescents, and Ontario’s former deputy minister of education, Bruce Rodrigues.
On Wednesday, Insp. Sinopoli said that these incidents only came to light “because of a young boy who saw the video and alerted his principal.”
He commended that student for speaking up – but did not mince words for the people he says investigators believe still have copies of the video, or have attempted to upload it to social media.
Such videos, he said, are a “constant reminder to victims of the trauma they have endured, and in many ways this could be far more detrimental than the assault itself.”
“We will be relentless in this regard,” Insp. Sinopoli said. “You will be caught, and you will be charged.”
With reports from Caroline Alphonso