TORONTO — An investigation into alleged sexual and physical abuse at a prestigious private Toronto school led to the arrest of a seventh student Wednesday as police laid a slew of new charges in the case.
Six teens were charged last month in connection with an alleged sexual assault at St. Michael’s College School, an incident that triggered a police probe into eight incidents at the Roman Catholic institution.
Investigators said five of those teens, and one not previously arrested, now face new charges in connection with a second alleged sexual assault. Two of the original six also face assault charges in a third incident.
All the incidents took place on school grounds this fall and involved the members of the football program, police said.
Insp. Domenic Sinopoli said the high-profile probe was launched after a concerned student alerted the school principal to a video of one of the alleged sexual assaults.
“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.”
The school said it was committed to understanding what led to such troubling incidents.
“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 in a statement.
Police said none of the school’s faculty or staff, including former principal Greg Reeves, are facing charges.
Reeves — who resigned in late November along with the school board president — had been widely criticized for not promptly reporting one of the alleged sexual assaults to police. Before stepping down, he said the allegations indicated the school has a problem.
In the weeks after the allegations at St. Michael’s first came to light, several alumni came forward to share stories of bullying during their time at the school and to express the need for a fundamental shift in culture at the prestigious institution.
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 noted, however, that the alleged offences were not indicative of systemic issues at the institution.
“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,” Sinopoli.
“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.”
Police have laid a total of 37 charges in the case and said they don’t expect to lay any more.
The six students arrested last month were charged at the time with assault, gang sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon. Four of those, and one other, were charged Wednesday with the same charges in a separate incident believed to have taken place on Oct. 17.
Two of those previously charged were also accused of assault and assault with a weapon in a third incident that allegedly took place on Sep. 18.
All the accused teens have been granted bail. Their cases are back in court on Jan. 28.
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. Police had previously stated that the video met the threshold for child pornography.
“The video and its distribution is a constant reminder to victims of the trauma they have endured,” Sinopoli said. “This could be far more detrimental than the assault itself.”
— With files from Nicole Thompson
Liam Casey and Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press