'We have to do better': St. Michael's private school principal acknowledges problems amid police probe
The principal of a Toronto private boys' school at the centre of a police probe following allegations that students have been assaulted or sexually assaulted on camera said there is a problem at the school and it needs to do better.
"We want to come out of this as leaders in understanding how to frame a culture so this doesn't occur," principal George Reeves told CBC News.
It also said Reeves forwarded an additional video to police, but does not know whether it's a new video or a duplicate of video the police already have.
The school said a "respect and culture review" by a third-party committee will be launched to help examine present and past "unacceptable behaviours" at the school and take steps to eliminate them.
"This review will listen and collect information from students, parents, alumni and current and former faculty and staff," it added.
A search to find members for the committee has begun, the school said, adding that it expects it to be established by the first week of December.
St. Michael's said it aims to have the committee deliver a preliminary report in the spring, with a final report in the summer. It said recommendations in the review will be implemented in the 2019-2020 school year.
"We have to do better. There is a problem, and we need to understand what it is," Reeves said. "So working with the police and working with the external committee, we need to find out."
Video shows sexual assault, police say
Toronto police sources said one incident, which was captured on video, involved a group of students on the football team pinning down another student and allegedly sexually assaulting him with a broom handle. The sources said another incident involved members of the basketball team bullying a student and soaking him with water.
The Roman Catholic school, which teaches grades 7 through 12, has said eight students have been expelled and another was suspended in the wake of multiple incidents, including an alleged sexual assault.
Police said in a Friday news release they are working with school officials and investigations into "a number of occurrences involving incidents of alleged assaultive and sexually assaultive behaviour have been opened."
Police said there may be more victims and urged anyone who has not already come forward to contact them.
No criminal charges have been laid at this time.
Reeves told CBC News that the school has interviewed the alleged perpetrators.
"We asked them: 'What were you thinking?' and to a T each of them have no idea," he said. "And to a T the parents of the perpetrators are also devastated at their sons' behaviour."
Reeves said the school will be hiring a social worker and making an app available so students can anonymously report code of conduct violations.
"The culture of silence is not a good one," he added. "We have to help kids understand that if they see something that is wrong, they need to report."