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.
St. Michael’s College School principal and president resign amid student sex assault scandal
Principal Greg Reeves and Father Jefferson Thompson, school president, stepped down Thursday
The principal and president of St. Michael’s College School have both resigned amid allegations of assault and sexual assault between students, according to a statement issued by the private, all-boys’ school Thursday afternoon.
Principal Greg Reeves and Father Jefferson Thompson, school president, stepped down to allow the Roman Catholic school to move “forward without distractions and allow it to focus on healing and change after the horrific events,” the board of directors of St. Michael’s said in the statement.
“Greg Reeves and Fr. Thompson have always put the welfare, education and formation of our students first — and they do so once again today,” board chair Michael Forsayeth said.
“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.”
I’m not at all surprised to see it ending this way.
– Jean-Paul Bedard, St. Michael’s alumnus
Bill Dunphy, who graduated from St. Michael’s 50 years ago, told CBC News the decision is a “symbolic action” and shows that the board of the prestigious school “really wants to send a signal that they’re looking for decisive action.”
Other alumni, who accused the school of having a culture of “toxic masculinity” and called for reform, say the resignations give the school time to address underlying issues in its classrooms.
“I’m not at all surprised to see it ending this way, or at least moving along in this direction,” said alumnus Jean-Paul Bedard, a former member of the football team who said he experienced sexual violence during hazing incidents at St. Michael’s 35 years ago.
“This definitely doesn’t fix the problem, but this allows a potential solution to come through.”
Alumnus Adam Boni, who graduated in 1987, echoed this and noted it’s an important step in transparency.
“That change allows the school to move on with fresh blood at the helm: new vision and purpose,” he said.
Principal criticized for handling of incidents
On Wednesday, the school reaffirmed its support for Reeves and Thompson after some alumni had called for senior administrators to resign and for teachers who knew about the assaults to step down.
Reeves, who has been criticized for not going to police sooner, defended his actions in an interview with CBC’s The National host Adrienne Arsenault earlier this week.
He said he held off contacting authorities because the alleged victim hadn’t told his family about the incident.
On Tuesday night, Reeves said if presented with the same situation he “would do exactly the same thing.”
Toronto private school principal acknowledges problems amid police probe
Reeves said he notified police Nov. 12 when the administration received a video of an alleged assault, which took place in a washroom. By that evening, school officials said they had received a second video of an alleged sexual assault in a locker room.
Toronto police told reporters Reeves did not report the alleged sexual assault until officers, who had been contacted by media, showed up at the school on Nov 15.
Insp. Dominic Sinopoli, who heads Toronto police’s sex crimes unit, has said the school should have reported the incident immediately.
In Ontario, the Ministry of Education requires public school boards to develop protocols with the police, that include incidents in which school principals have a mandatory obligation to contact police. Suspected sexual assault is among those incidents.
However, many of the standards that govern public schools do not apply to private schools, including the duty to report suspected sexual assault to police, said John Schuman, a St. Michael’s alumnus and Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in children’s rights and education law.
Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders wouldn’t say whether Reeves will be investigated for not alerting police before he did.
“For me to speculate is unfair,” Saunders told reporters Thursday following a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board.
Andrew Leung, a former science and physics teacher at St. Michael’s, was appointed interim president by the school’s board of directors. He has served as the pastor and rector of Edmonton parishes, St. Alphonsus and St. Clare, for the past two years.
Earlier this week, police laid criminal charges against six students in connection with a gang sexual assault investigation.
Police are investigating six cases that involve students of the school, which teaches Grades 7 to 12. Some of the incidents were captured on video and shared online. Police and the school have said two of the six cases involve sexual assault.
St. Michael’s also expelled eight students in connection with the allegations. It’s unclear if any of the eight are among those who have been charged.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, speaking following a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board on Thursday, said he hopes the resignations will lead to a new chapter at the prestigious school and that new leadership will address the serious issues the allegations have brought to light.
Tory called what’s happening at the school “a real tragedy for everyone concerned.”
St. Michael’s, which is known for its athletic programs, launched a third-party investigation into the present situation and past incidents. School officials hope a preliminary examination will be done by spring with a more in-depth investigation to wrap up next summer.
With files from CBC’s John Rieti
The president and principal of beleaguered St. Michael’s College School have resigned as police continue their investigation into allegations of a physical and sexual abuse at the prestigious educational institution.
In a statement released Thursday night, the board of directors announced principal Greg Reeves and the school’s president, Father Jefferson Thompson, had stepped down.
The resignations came in the wake of numerous allegations of sexual and physical abuse by students at the exclusive Toronto boarding school, many of which were recorded on video and widely shared over social media.
In the statement, the two chose to resign out of a “shared desire to move the school forward without distractions, and allow it to focus on healing and change.”
Reeves came under fire over allegedly waiting nearly 48 hours to notify police about the videos, a delay he attributed to ensuring a victim of a videotaped assault was able to notify his parents.
Calls for both Thompson and Reeves to step down began in the days after the scandal broke, from both community members and parents of students.
“This administration is too arrogant to accept any responsibility for what has happened,” one parent, who asked not to be named, told the Toronto Sun.
“This is all about protecting the brand and the school. It’s big money.”
On Monday, six students were charged by Toronto police — each facing charges of assault, gang sexual assault, and sexual assault with a weapon in connection with perhaps the most notorious of the numerous videos under police investigation — allegedly depicting a violent hazing ritual by the school’s junior football team involving a boy being sexually assaulted with a broom handle.
Other videos found circulating online reportedly involve a student in his underwear being assaulted in a washroom sink, and another police say involved an assault with a belt.
St. Mikes has announced the launch of an “independent investigation” — aside from the one being conducted by police — into “underlying attitudes and behaviours inconsistent with its cultures and values.”
St. Mike’s duty to report alleged abuse falls in a ‘grey area’
Ministry of Education rules in Ontario differ for public and private schools
Posted: Nov 22, 2018 4:00 AM ET
The high school principal of St. Michael’s College School in Toronto may have had no duty to report the sexual assault allegations to police, but it’s a legal grey area whether he should have immediately contacted the Children’s Aid Society.
However, some lawyers say that at the very least, the principal had an ethical responsibility to immediately report the alleged crime and not delay, despite the wishes of the victim.
John Schuman, a Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in children’s rights and education law, said a principal doesn’t necessarily have the expertise to decide whether they should delay calling authorities or to determine how well a victim is coping.
“He may be very, very good at educating and running a school. But this is talking about the emotional welfare and physical welfare of a kid who’s been sexually abused,” Schuman said.
“I don’t think he’s a psychologist, so I don’t think he is in a position to really do that sort of evaluation.”
Police are investigating six allegations involving students at the all-boy private school after an alleged gang sexual assault was captured on camera and shared on social media.
The school’s principal, Greg Reeves, did not report that alleged sexual assault to police until officers, contacted by the media, showed up at the school 48 hours after the administration received a video of the incident.
Toronto police Insp. Dominic Sinopoli has said the school should have reported the incident immediately but Reeves has said he held off contacting authorities because the alleged victim hadn’t told his family about the incident.
On Tuesday night, in a meeting with school alumni, Reeves defended his actions, saying if he had to do it over, he would respond the same way.
In Ontario, the Ministry of Eduction requires public school boards to develop protocols with the police, that include incidents in which school principals have a mandatory obligation to contact police. Suspected sexual assault is among those incidents.
However, many of the standards that govern public schools do not apply to private schools, including the duty to report suspected sexual assault to police, said Schuman. This means, in the case at St. Michael’s, Reeves would not have been obligated to report the alleged abuse to the police, he said.
“Private schools were exempted from almost everything under the Education Act,” Schuman said.
Yet it’s a little less clear what responsibilities Reeves may have had under the province’s Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA). Section 125 of that act states that a person who performs professional or official duties with respect to children, and has reasonable grounds to suspect abuse must immediately report that abuse to a Children’s Aid Society.
Reeves has acknowledged the legal obligations the school abides by in reporting such incidents fall under that act. He has also said he is not aware of Children’s Aid Services being notified about any incident.
But Schuman said private schools have interpreted Section 125 of CYFSA to mean that principals are only required to immediately contact Children’s Aid Societies in cases of suspected abuse at the hands of a parent or guardian.
And because the video does not show a parent or guardian abusing a child, private schools might conclude they don’t have to report it to Children’s Aid.
“I think that there are arguments to be made on both sides of how that section is worded,” said Erin Ellis, a Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in civil cases involving sexual abuse. “It is a grey area there because the abuse was student-on-student versus a teacher on student or somebody else who had charge of the child.”
Schuman said Reeves could also argue that that he didn’t have a duty to report immediately because there was no time necessity, as the child was out of immediate danger.
However, Schuman believes that Reeves and private schools legally and ethically do have an obligation to report immediately to Children’s Aid.
“I think that teachers are persons with charge of a child … and if children are abused under their watch it needs to be a reported to the Children’s Aid Society,” he said.
“If a school is taking the view that they don’t have to report stuff or that they are only going to report the stuff that is absolutely clear … that cuts off a lot of information the Children’s Aid Society receives.”
Ellis said, even if Reeves, under the CFYSA, was not legally obligated to immediately inform Children’s Aid, she believes he had an ethical obligation to do so.
“The CYFSA is worded in that it has to be immediate. They drafted that for a reason and they drafted that even though … the victim may not want it reported to the Children’s Aid or to the police.”
As for legal ramifications for not reporting such abuse, a person convicted under Section 125 of the CYFSA faces fines of up to $5,000.
Schuman said a Crown counsel could try to prosecute Reeves, but it’s rare that people are charged with this offence
“There hasn’t been a lot of interest in prosecuting these things. But if you got a Crown who was thinking, ‘Yeah, this needs to be sorted out’ or ‘I’m really angry that he didn’t [report] in this circumstances,’ than absolutely a Crown could try to prosecute him.”
With files from The Canadian Press
Events at St. Michael’s College School
6 boys arrested and charged in connection with alleged sexual assault
Here’s a timeline of events at St. Michael’s College School based on information provided by the school and Toronto police:
Monday, Nov. 12: Videos surface
In the morning, school administrators receive a video of a hazing incident, which police sources say involved members of the basketball team bullying a student in the washroom and soaking him with water.The school launches an internal investigation and interviews the students involved and their parents.
The school contacts police to seek advice on how to handle the incident. Police advise that if the alleged victim thinks it was an assault, he should report it to police.In the evening, the administration receives a video of a second incident, which police sources say involved a group of students on the football team pinning down another student in a locker room and allegedly sexually assaulting him with a broom handle.
Tuesday, Nov. 13: 4 students expelled
The school investigates both incidents, identifies and interviews all students involved and their parents.Four students allegedly involved in the hazing incident are expelled.
Wednesday, Nov. 14: Police investigation begins
The school continues its internal investigation and expels four students and suspends another one in connection with the locker room incident.Toronto police receive media inquiries about a video of an alleged sexual assault at St. Michael’s circulating on social media.Police send an officer to the school. Prior to the officer’s arrival, police receive word from the media regarding the expulsions of students related to an alleged “sexual assault involving an object.”
The officer meets with the principal, who hands over the video of the alleged sexual assault.Police announce they have launched an investigation into an alleged sexual assault.Police announce the video meets the definition of child pornography and advise it should be deleted immediately.The school emails parents and issues a statement saying it notified police about both incidents on Monday.
Thursday, Nov. 15: Video of 3rd incident surfaces
Police dispute the school’s claim that the administration contacted police about the alleged sexual assault on Monday.The school is made aware of a third incident captured on video and notifies police, which later said it also involved an alleged sexual assault.The school sends another email to parents about the incidents and the expulsions.
Friday, Nov. 16: Info session held for parents
The school holds two information sessions for parents regarding the incidents.
Principal Greg Reeves says in a series of media interviews that the school has reported a fourth incident captured on video to police.Reeves admits he didn’t report the alleged sexual assault to police on Monday because the victim had not yet informed his parents about the incident.
Monday, Nov. 19: 6 boys arrested and charged
Police say six boys have been arrested in connection with the alleged sexual assault at St. Michael’s — five of them turned themselves in, a sixth one was arrested on the way to school.
Police say they’re investigating three additional incidents, including one involving an alleged sexual assault. They warn the ongoing investigation could lead to more charges.
The accused — two aged 14 and four aged 15 — appear in a youth court and are granted bail. They will return to court on Dec. 19.
Tuesday, Nov. 20: 2 additional incidents revealed
Toronto police say they are investigating after receiving two additional videos, one of which was purported to show a St. Michael’s College School student being assaulted with a belt.
The new submissions bring the total number of videos in police possession to four.
Insp. Dominic Sinopoli, who heads the force’s sex crimes unit, says the acts depicted in the videos involve all males, but it’s unclear whether they are all students at the school and if the events occurred on school property or elsewhere.
One depicts an assault with a belt, while the other shows a threat being made.
Thursday, Nov. 22: Principal, president resign
The school’s principal and president both resign their posts amid criticism of how they managed the burgeoning crisis.
A statement issued in the late afternoon states Greg Reeves and Father Jefferson Thompson stepped down to allow the school to go “forward without distractions and allow it to focus on healing and change after the horrific events.”
The board of directors, who earlier in the week endorsed the school’s top leadership, praises both men in the statement.
“Greg Reeves and Fr. Thompson have always put the welfare, education and formation of our students first — and they do so once again today,” board chair Michael Forsayeth says.
Toronto police charge 6 students in St. Michael’s College School investigation
Boys facing multiple criminal charges in connection with alleged sexual assault
Toronto police have charged six students in an alleged gang sexual assault at St. Michael’s College School that was captured on camera and shared on social media.
Deputy chief James Ramer said five students turned themselves in on Monday, while another was arrested on his way to school. All six teenage boys, whose identities are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, are facing multiple criminal charges.
Each student has been charged with:
- Gang sexual assault.
- Assault with a weapon.
All six boys — two aged 14 and four aged 15 — appeared in a youth court Monday afternoon and were released on bail. They will be back in court on Dec. 19.
All six were released on between $5,000 and $7,000 bail.
The charges stem from a sexual assault investigation at the private, all-boys Catholic school that was launched last week.
Insp. Dominic Sinopoli, who heads Toronto police’s sex crimes unit, told reporters police are now looking into two allegations of sexual assault and two allegations of assault, although it’s unclear at this time if the incidents are related.
Sinopoli said the incidents started as hazing before veering into the “criminal arena.”
Sinopoli said police have reason to believe there are more victims and more videos out there, and said he’s “very concerned” that graphic video of the alleged sexual assault is still out there on social media.
“The unintended consequences are far reaching and detrimental to the recovery of the victim,” he said.
Previously, police warned the videos amount to child pornography, and Sinopoli warned anyone who is found with a copy will face serious punishment.
Sinopoli explained that more than 50 witnesses have been identified so far and that more information is coming in to police every day. Asked whether they could expect to lay more charges on students he told CBC News that “depends on the students of St. Mike’s and how much they want to deal with this issue.”
The Canadian Press spoke with police sources who confirmed that the charges filed Monday involved a group of students on the football team allegedly pinning down another student in a locker room and sexually assaulting him with a broom handle.
Sinopoli said Monday that the victim of the alleged sexual assault was doing well.
“He has gotten the support he needs and deserves,” he said.
School dealing with other threats
Sinopoli acknowledged that tensions in the school were high due to the recent events. St. Michael’s principal was unable to attend the news conference Monday due to a security threat at the school.
Police said they had also received unconfirmed reports of threats against St. Michael’s students on social media and in public. Sinopoli told CBC News the school is telling students they don’t have to wear their uniforms travelling to and from school after reports of some boys being threatened while wearing it.
“We want to reiterate that we are monitoring social media, and we’ll act on any reports of reprisals, retaliation, violence or threats of violence,” Sinopoli said.
The school, which has expelled eight students in connection with the allegations, said it supports the police force’s move to file criminal charges. It’s unclear if any of the eight are among those who have been charged.
The school’s principal, Greg Reeves, described the video of the alleged sexual assault as “horrific” and said he didn’t report it to police right away because the alleged target of the attack had not yet told his family about the incident.
“I called his parents because he had not informed his parents about what was going on,” he said. “His mom was out of town — [it] was a difficult moment at that point.”
“We’re as shocked and horrified as you are,” Reeves told reporters at a news conference on Monday afternoon, adding that the school has hired a social worker and launched a confidential voicemail for students to anonymously report abuse or information.
Sinopoli said the school should have reported the incident immediately.
The school has also launched a third-party investigation into the present situation and past incidents. The principal hopes a preliminary examination will be done by spring, with a more in-depth investigation to be completed by next summer.
Loretta Merritt, a Toronto-based lawyer and mother of a student at the school told CBC she feels the charges against the boys are “justified for sure.”
“I feel sick about it, it’s devastating,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine that children could hurt each other in such a way.”
Merritt said she feels the school handled the situation “quite well.”
“They have put in a tremendous effort in terms of supporting the actual boys who were assaulted, their family, the boys at the school, the larger community and they have been very open and transparent with the parents too,” she said.
Mayor John Tory commented on the St. Michael’s situation Monday, telling reporters what’s transpired is “a very sad story all the way around.”
“This is a school that has a great, distinguished history in our city, but sometimes it can be the case that cultures within organizations like that, not confined to that school or to schools in general, can fail to meet the accepted standard, and fail to keep up even with the changing attitudes, and I think in this case both things have happened here, clearly.”
Police say the investigation is ongoing and information is coming in daily.
With files from The Canadian Press