TORONTO – The interim president of a Roman Catholic all-boys school rocked by student-on-student abuse allegations said on Thursday that only the football program was cancelled for next year because of the particular dynamics on those teams.
At the same time, Andrew Leung said there was no reason to suspend any of the coaches at the private St. Michael’s College School.
“There have been no incidents involving any of these coaches. The coaches were not allowed in the locker room,” Leung said. “There is no reason to assign responsibility to anyone besides the perpetrators.”
The school has expelled eight of its 1,060 students in recent weeks amid an active police investigation into at least two videotaped incidents allegedly showing some students sexually abusing or physically assaulting other students in a locker-room or washroom. The situation garnered widespread public attention, sparked angst and anger within the school community, and led to the resignation of its two top officials.
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Six students face assault and sexual assault charges.
While the varsity basketball season was cancelled for this year, Leon said only the junior and varsity football programs had been scrapped for the next academic year. He cited “incidents in the recent past” involving the football program that have come to light but which have had not necessarily been made public. All relevant information, he said, has been passed onto the police.
“This information, along with concerns we have heard about the overall dynamics on these teams, contributed to our decision,” Leung said. “We made a very hard decision to suspend two sports where more work needs to be done.”
Leon said there had been no complaints about the hockey program.
“We can only act on what we know, and we are doing everything to find out.”
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While he said he had no information as to whether any parents had opted to take their children out of the St. Mike’s in light of the allegations, Leon did say applications to the school remained strong.
Despite the school’s directive to students to refrain from wearing their uniforms in public as a safety measure, Leon said no incidents had occurred and the request had been rescinded.
“There has been no indication of student safety issues on this, so they are allowed to wear their uniforms with pride in public,” he said.
In all, the school has begun implementation of an eight-point plan to deal with the fallout from the allegations. The measures include the establishment of a four-person “respect and culture” review panel to investigate and report back by the summer. Whether and in what form the independent panel’s report will be made public will be up the school’s board.
The school has also put in place a tip line for students to report any concerns or allegations.
“Somewhere along the line, we missed something grave and we are committed to identifying and fixing it,” Leung said. “My goal has been to understand the truth, even if it is hard to hear, because only then can we move forward in a meaningful way.”
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