Parents, teachers, and politicians gathered just minutes away from St. Michael’s College School, to try to address a problem they say hasn’t just impacted the private all-boys school, but the entire community.
“People were concerned and upset, but mostly they were looking for solutions,” said Kudra Sha.
Sha attended the “Break the Silence” community meeting at Artscape Whychwood Barns to change the high-school culture of hazing — and stamp out the stigma around reporting assaults and sexual assaults to adults.
“We want to create a safe space where parents, educators, youth, the community-at-large can move forward,” said Toronto-St. Paul’s MPP, Jill Andrew.
“How do we break the stigma of silence? How do we create safer spaces where our children feel empowered to speak?”
The meeting stems from allegations of assault and sexual assault at St. Michael’s College School. Police are investigating six separate incidents, including one in which a video was taken allegedly showing a group of boys sodomizing another boy with a broomstick in a locker room.
Six boys face a series of charges, including sexual assault — and have been released on bail.
The aftermath of the St. Michael’s alleged sexual assault scandal has left parents in the community worried and shaken, according to Andrew.
Many are asking the question, “Could this be happening at my school? And if so, how do we stop it?”
“Parents have told me that they are scared, they have told me they are disappointed that this would happen to any youth so what they’re saying is that they need support,” said Andrews.
“How can we create those safe spaces where kids can thrive and where they feel safe in telling when something goes wrong?”
A panel was set up to help answer those questions on Wednesday night.
It included a therapist, an incoming Catholic School Board trustee, and a mother of a current St. Michael’s student.
WATCH: Alumni, experts push for culture change at St. Michael’s College School (Nov. 21)
Physiotherapist Ana Montero said she helped “educate the public on the sights and symptoms of trauma.”
“Bystanders are a key part of the solution,” said another panelist, Catholic School Board trustee-elect, Norm Di Pasquale. “So instead of being simply a bystander, we need to be a supportive bystander.”
In the end, some attendees, like Thomas Murphy, felt one meeting wasn’t enough.
“We’re nowhere still. There’s still so much that needs to be done,” said Murphy.
But others at the meeting took the glass-half-full approach, pointing out that a lot was learned, and the community is taking a step in the right direction.
“The main thing was education — education around consent,” said Sha.