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Teacher charged in death of Jeremiah Perry who drowned on field trip in Algonquin Park

WATCH ABOVE: A year after Jeremiah Perry, 15, drowned during a school trip to Algonquin Park, the supervising teacher has been charged with criminal negligence causing death. As Eric Sorensen reports, the tragedy raises many questions about field trips and the responsibility of teachers and school boards.

Ontario Provincial Police have charged a 54-year-old man in connection with the death of a 15-year-old Toronto student who drowned during a school field trip in Algonquin Park last summer.

Police said Jeremiah Perry was swimming with a group of classmates at Big Trout Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park on the evening of July 4 when he went underwater and did not resurface. Search and rescue crews located his body the following day.

Perry attended C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in Toronto and was taking part in a week-long field trip with 32 other students.

READ MORE: Province releases review of outdoor education policies after Toronto student’s death

Provincial police spokeswoman Const. Catherine Yarmel said the man was responsible for co-ordinating the trip to Algonquin Park where the teen died.

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Toronto District School Board officials said Perry was one of 15 students who failed a swim test but was still allowed to take part in the excursion.

The board conducted a review of its practices and laid out new rules for trips following Perry’s death.

VIDEO: Toronto Mayor John Tory commented that everyone has “an obligation to keep kids safe” after being asked about charges being laid against a teacher in the drowning death of 15-year-old Toronto student.

‘We have an obligation to keep kids safe’: Tory comments on charges in drowning death of Jeremiah Perry
‘We have an obligation to keep kids safe’: Tory comments on charges in drowning death of Jeremiah Perry

The school board’s internal investigation, which was temporarily halted during the police probe, suggested that some of the students didn’t even know whether they passed or failed the swim test, which involved rolling out of a canoe, treading in water for a minute, and swimming 50 meters without a life-jacket.

“We remain deeply troubled by our findings released last summer that critical safety requirements, such as passing a swim test, do not appear to have been followed by the lead teacher supervising the trip,” the TDSB said in a statement released on Thursday.

“Despite this, we have already strengthened our checks and balances to ensure something similar can never happen again.”

Jeremiah Perry, 15, drowned in Algonquin Park on July 4, 2017.
Jeremiah Perry, 15, drowned in Algonquin Park on July 4, 2017. Global News

The board said those measures include the principal reviewing the proper documentation and passed tests prior to trips, and that students and their parents are given the results.

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“Throughout the investigation, we have cooperated with police and we will continue to do, as well as with the Crown Attorney’s office,” the board said.

“The TDSB can now resume its internal investigation, which was suspended last year at the direction of the OPP.”

READ MORE: Toronto teen Jeremiah Perry failed school swim test before drowning in Algonquin Park

WATCH: (Aug 17, 2017): Jeremiah Perry drowned during the school trip to Algonquin Park. 15 students failed a mandatory swim test, including Perry. Lama Nicolas speaks with the mother of one of those students. 
‘I trusted our kids to go, they basically deceived us’: Mother of teen who went on school trip
‘I trusted our kids to go, they basically deceived us’: Mother of teen who went on school trip

OPP said the man, identified as Nicholas Mills of Caledon, has been charged with one count of criminal negligence causing death.

The accused is a teacher at C.W. Jefferys and an outdoor activities program coordinator. According to his LinkedIn page, he is also a martial arts instructor.

The charge comes about a year after police began a criminal probe into Perry’s death.

“The OPP conducted a thorough and professional investigation, which included over 100 interviews, along with the execution of one search warrant and four production orders,” Yarmel said.

The school board said Mills remains on home assignment, where he was placed on July 11, 2017, just days after Perry’s death.

READ MORE: Classmate of Toronto teen who died in Algonquin Park says he ‘felt hands pulling me down’

Toronto Mayor John Tory, who attended Perry’s funeral, said on Thursday that those who work with children have an obligation to keep them safe.

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“I think that was a lesson to us when that happened that as much as we want to bring joy to kids to be able to go on trips, we have to take all the precautions of making sure that when they go they’re going to be safe,” Tory said.

WATCH: Toronto teacher charged with student’s drowning on school trip

Toronto teacher charged with student’s drowning on school trip
Toronto teacher charged with student’s drowning on school trip

“So beyond that, I won’t comment on the individual facts of that case, but I think we’re very much aware of people in public life, like me, have the responsibility that we have.”

Mills is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 11.

— With a file from The Canadian Press

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