Toronto Police have expanded their investigation into alleged assaults and sexual assaults connected to St. Michael’s College School after receiving two new videos, including one they say depicts an assault with a belt.
With six incidents now under investigation – and six students facing criminal charges – the prestigious all-boys private school announced on Tuesday that it has cancelled all midterm exams and extracurricular activities for the remainder of 2018. Instead, students will participate in “workshops and discussions on issues that have arisen,” the school said in an update on its website.
Police are now investigating allegations of three assaults, two sexual assaults and a threat. At a news conference on Tuesday, Toronto Police Inspector Domenic Sinopoli said investigators have videos in four of the cases, including the two most recent – one of which depicts the alleged threat and the other an alleged assault with a weapon, which Insp. Sinopoli clarified was a belt.
“These incidents came to us after we announced the charges in our call-out to other victims,” police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said on Tuesday.
On Monday, six St. Michael’s students were arrested and charged with assault, gang sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon in connection with another of the videos. That one, police have said, shows a boy being sexually assaulted with an object.
Five of the boys charged were expelled last week and turned themselves in to police. One was picked up on his way to school. All six – four of them 15 years old, two 14 – appeared in court on Monday and were released on bail to their parents. They cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The alleged attacks first came to light last Wednesday after journalists began making inquiries with police about rumoured expulsions at the school that were possibly connected to a sexual assault.
An officer was sent to the school to discuss the matter with principal Greg Reeves.
Mr. Reeves had called the police two days earlier, looking for “advice” about a “bullying” incident that had possibly escalated to assault. He did not mention to police that there was a video of the incident. Later that evening, he learned of a second incident – the alleged sexual assault with an object – which had also been recorded. Again, he did not inform the police.
It was only when police arrived at the school on Wednesday, after the media inquiries, that Mr. Reeves told them about the alleged sexual assault. He also told them about a third incident that had come to light, which is now being investigated as an alleged assault.
A fourth incident (a second alleged sexual assault) was reported to police on Thursday. This case is believed to have occurred before the others, although all four incidents are believed to have taken place this academic year, police said.
Insp. Sinopoli would not comment Tuesday on how police were made aware of the latest videos. He stressed that investigators are being as cautious and thorough as possible – and that while these incidents are being investigated as criminal, it is possible that no charges will be laid.
And while the latest videos were unearthed in the course of the investigation into the violence at St. Michael’s, Insp. Sinopoli said police have not yet confirmed that the boys in these videos are students at the school or whether they were filmed on school grounds.
In the update on the school’s website on Tuesday, St. Michael’s said it had forwarded two computer files to the police on Sunday without reviewing their contents. School administrators noted that the police came to them Tuesday with two videos, asking them to help identify the people in the videos. The school stressed that it does not know if they are the same files it forwarded to police on Sunday and that it is co-operating fully with the investigation.
Insp. Sinopoli told a Toronto television station that the latest videos were not provided by the school. He called the investigation a “teaching moment” for the school – and particularly for Mr. Reeves, who has been criticized for not going to police as soon as he learned about the alleged sexual assault last week.
Mr. Reeves has defended his decision, saying he had every intention of going to police had they not come to him two days later.
Members of the Ontario College of Teachers are required to report suspected sexual abuse or neglect of students whenever they become aware of an incident. Mr. Reeves is listed as certified with the college, which is elective for private-school teachers and administrators. He has previously worked in the publicly funded Catholic school system.
Insp. Sinopoli has stressed that the incidents themselves are the priority of the investigation right now – not how they were handled by the school administration. But he said on Tuesday that the administration’s response will “100 per cent” be part of the investigation down the road.
He noted on Tuesday that police have protocols with the public and Catholic school boards in Toronto for reporting such incidents. He said he hopes this will be an opportunity to establish a similar protocol with private schools.
The school has commissioned an independent examination of its student culture, both current and historic. It hopes to have a preliminary report by the spring and a final by next summer. A tip line has also been set up for “code of conduct violations.”
With files from Caroline Alphonso and The Canadian Press