An investigation into allegations of physical and sexual assault at a prestigious all-boys private school has led to multiple charges against a total of seven students, Toronto police said Wednesday.
Insp. Domenic Sinopoli, head of the force’s sex crimes unit, said investigators had concluded an ongoing probe into a total of eight incidents of alleged abuse at St. Michael’s College School, all involving members of the football program.
Sinopoli said that while police did not lay charges in five of the eight incidents because they were not conclusively criminal or because victims opted not to pursue the matter, a total of seven students now face charges in three incidents that allegedly took place on school grounds between September and November of this year.
Six students had previously been charged with assault, gang sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon in connection to a November incident that was captured on video.
Sinopoli said four of those students, plus one more, were arrested on Wednesday in an alleged sexual assault believed to have taken place on Oct. 17. Two of those previously charged are also accused of assault and assault with a weapon in a third incident that allegedly took place on Sep. 18.
“We do not have any evidence or complaints to suggest that this type of behaviour extended outside of this school year or involved anyone outside this small group of students,” he said.
“Our research into these incidents and our past dealings with the college did not suggest any trend that would lead someone to believe that this is an ongoing and systemic problem.”
Sinopoli said none of the school’s faculty or staff, including former principal Greg Reeves, are facing charges in the various incidents.
St. Michael’s issued a statement shortly after the police news conference expressing a commitment to eradicating such incidents in the future.
“This is another painful and heartbreaking day, but 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,” interim president Rev. Andrew Leung said. ”We are committed to understanding why this behaviour happened and what led to it, and to putting measures in place to ensure it does not happen again.”
The sexual-assault scandal at the Catholic school garnered widespread public attention and led to the resignation of its top two officials.
St. Michael’s has since established a “respect and culture” review panel that is set to report its findings by the summer. A tip line for students to report any concerns or allegations was also set up.
The school also cancelled its football program for the next year, citing “problematic dynamics” on those teams.
Police said they had identified two alleged victims of sexual assault through their investigation who were both now receiving support.
Sinopoli said, however, that a video of one of the alleged incidents continues to circulate, causing ongoing trauma for the alleged victim. Police had previously stated that the video met the threshold for child pornography.
He said a video of the new suspected sexual assault may also exist, though police have not seen it.
The high-profile investigation has touched off an important conversation about school safety and appropriate conduct, Sinopoli said, noting it got underway only when a concerned student came forward to the school principal.
“This particular case has brought much-needed attention to this type of behaviour,” he said. “Physical and sexual abuse cannot be tolerated anywhere, let alone in schools where children should feel safe. Parents, students and teachers are all talking about this and of what is expected of them, and that is a good thing.”
With files from Nicole Thompson
Liam Casey and Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press