The president and principal of St. Michael’s College School have resigned their posts, just one day after the school’s board of directors expressed full support for their leadership in the wake of allegations of sexual assault and assault at the school.
The resignations of president Jefferson Thompson and principal Greg Reeves come eight days after news broke of an alleged sexual assault perpetrated by a group of St. Michael’s students against one of their classmates. Since then, police have said they are investigating a total of six incidents connected to the prestigious all-boys private school. The other five include one other alleged sexual assault, three alleged assaults, including one with a belt, and one alleged threatening incident.
Six boys, aged 14 and 15, were arrested on Monday 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 of alleged sexual assault.
In a statement released on Thursday evening, the school cited the two men’s “shared desire to move the school forward without distractions” as reasons for their resignations. Neither Father Thompson nor Mr. Reeves have spoken publicly about why they stepped down.
The school hailed the men’s departures as an example of putting students “first.”
“Having fulfilled their moral and ethical obligations to manage the immediate crisis and engage our school community, this courageous decision allows us to move forward with our goals: understanding how these events could have occurred, regaining the trust of our community and bringing cultural change to our school,” board chair Michael Forsayeth, an alumnus, said in the release.
The school and the board declined to comment further on the resignations late Thursday. The board has not answered interview requests and written questions from The Globe and Mail for the past three days.
Mr. Reeves had been criticized for not immediately alerting police after he was made aware, on Monday, Nov. 12, of a video in which a boy was allegedly sexually assaulted with an object. Two days later, police went to the school after reporters made inquiries about rumoured student expulsions which they’d heard were possibly connected to a sexual assault. At that time, Mr. Reeves told police about the alleged sexual assault caught on video. He has said that he had every intention of going to police, had they not come to him first. He explained the delay by saying he was busy with expulsion meetings and helping the alleged victim tell his parents.
Inspector Domenic Sinopoli, head of the Toronto police’s sex-crimes unit, told reporters this week that he believes the principal should have immediately gone to police about the allegations − and that the administration’s handling of the case will be part of their investigation down the road.
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.
Father Thompson, a priest with the Basilian Fathers congregation, will be replaced with an interim president, Rev. Andrew Leung, a former St. Michael’s science teacher and pastor from Edmonton. Mr. Reeves’s role as principal will be taken over by two vice-principals, Emile John and David Lee. Together, the three will lead the school’s roughly 1,100 students from Grades 7 to 12 as they navigate the end of a semester where exams and extra-curricular activities have been cancelled.
A day before the resignations, Mr. Forsayeth said in a press release that Mr. Reeves and Father Thompson were men “of the highest integrity and continue to have our trust,” citing a “standing ovation” the school’s leadership was given at an alumni meeting on Tuesday. "I believe that Father Thompson and Mr. Reeves have their overwhelming support,” Mr. Forsayeth said.
The meeting was called to address the ongoing police investigations, the school’s handling of the issue, and a planned culture review. St Michael’s had also been shaken by two threats considerable enough to warrant police attention since the news broke last week, including a bomb threat that led to an evacuation.