Six boys have been charged in connection with the alleged sexual assault of a male student at St. Michael’s College School.
Deputy Chief James Ramer and Insp. Dominic Sinopoli, the unit commander of the sex crimes unit, announced the charges Monday morning at a news conference on the investigation into allegations of sexual assault and assault at the prestigious all-boys private school in Midtown Toronto.
Ramer said five suspects turned themselves in to police and a sixth suspect was arrested on their way to school this morning.
They have all been charged with assault, gang sexual assault, and assault with a weapon. Distribution of child pornography charges could also be laid at a later date, Sinopoli said.
Speaking to press on Sunday, Gregory Reeves, the principal of the school, said last Monday administrators received a video of an apparent assault of a student inside a washroom. The school, Reeves said, notified police about the incident that same day. Reeves said later that night, he received a second video which appeared to show a male student being sexually assaulted with an object.
Reeves admitted that he did not immediately notify police about the second video. He told press that administrators reported the incident to police on Wednesday. Police say they first learned about the video of the alleged sexual assault when contacted by media.
Reeves said he was “as shocked and horrified as anyone” when he saw the video and after speaking to the student involved, he realized that the boy had not informed his parents about what had happened.
“It was important for me, for total protection of the victim here, that I set up expulsion meetings again for the next morning and that I expel the kids out of the school in protection of the victim,” Reeves said Sunday.
In total, eight students have been expelled and one student has been suspended as a result of the alleged incident.
Police have since received new allegations of a second assault and a second sexual assault at the school.
In total, Sinopoli said they believe there are four separate victims in connection with the four incidents and added they believe there may be more assaults that have not been reported to police.
The charges laid Monday all relate to the first alleged sexual assault that was reported to school administrators and charges have not yet been laid in connection with the other incidents.
Sinopoli would not say if the boys charged Monday could face more charges in relation to the other alleged assaults and sexual assault.
He was also unable to confirm if any of the suspects charged are among those who have been expelled from the school.
When asked if the school should have notified police about the video of the sexual assault sooner, Sinopoli replied “yes.”
Committee for third-party review to be established by early December
In an email sent out Monday, St. Michael’s outlined its next steps in dealing with the situation and said staff will be sending out a daily email in an effort to be “fully transparent” about developments.
The school previously announced that it will be launching an independent review of “underlying attitudes and behaviors inconsistent with our culture and values” and on Monday, administrators announced that the committee for the independent review is expected to be established by the first week of December.
A preliminary report on the committee’s findings is expected by the spring of next year and the final report should come by next summer, the school said.
In the email, St. Michael’s also said staff are in the process of setting up a confidential voicemail for students to anonymously report incidents. The voicemail, according to the school, should be activated by Tuesday.
“We are also examining digital options,” the school added.
Saunders hopes independent review presents ‘opportunity to learn’
While the school has faced criticism over its handling of the situation, in a one-on-one interview with press on Monday, Police Chief Mark Saunders said he does not believe administrators had any “nefarious” intentions.
“I hope that with the school, with the third-party review, there are opportunities there,” Saunders said.
“I think it is an opportunity to learn, figure out are there procedures that need to be changed, is there training that needs to be changed? I think that third-party piece is something that is going to lead to that aspect of the thing.”