Six students at St. Michael’s College School have been arrested as a result of a police investigation of video purportedly showing sexual assault with a weapon on another student.
Five boys turned themselves into police Monday morning and one more was arrested on his way into school, Deputy Police Chief James Ramer said at a press conference today.
The alleged assault caught on video is one of four incidents at the all-male private school in midtown that police are looking into, said Inspector Dominic Sinopoli, Unit Commander of Sex Crimes.
Officers from 13 Division and the Child and Youth Advocacy Centre have been investigating the allegations since Wednesday, Nov. 14, he told media.
The school has come under criticism for not reporting the sexual assault incident to police on Monday, Nov. 12 when it first learned of it.
St. Michael’s principal Greg Reeves told another press conference today that on the morning of Nov. 12 the school came into possession of the video and began its own investigation, including identifying students in the video and notifying parents.
A police officer was called at about 3:30 p.m. and “I told him exactly what we had and what we did,” Reeves said.
The police advised that if victims wanted to press charges, they would have to come to police, according to Reeves.
A further video was discovered that Monday evening, Reeves said.
In response to media grilling about why the apparent crimes were not reported until Wednesday, Reeves said Tuesday was taken up with expulsions and helping the victim and victim’s family which was his priority.
Police were told of the videos on Wednesday when they came to the school “over another matter,” the principal told media.
The police recounted the events slightly differently.
On Monday, Nov. 12, police at 13 Division received a call from the principal seeking advice about a “hazing incident” he had learned about, according to Inspector Sinopoli. The school was then advised about how students could engage police services and no action was taken at that time, he said at the police press conference.
On Nov. 14, police heard from media that a number of expulsions were taking place at St. Michael’s after an unrelated occurrence, Sinopoli said. A 13 Division officer was sent to the school about that but before arriving police also learned from media that the expulsions were related to an alleged sexual assault involving an object.
“When the officer arrived, and after speaking to the principal, he confirmed that the expulsions were not in response to the unrelated occurrence but were in response to a video that showed or depicted a sexual assault,” Sinopoli said.
On Thursday, Nov. 15 the principal learned of another alleged sexual assault incident that had occurred before the incidents being investigated and immediately notified police, the inspector said.
Police are now investigating two allegations of assault and two allegations of sexual assault, with a “minimum of four” victims.
All four incidents occurred during the current school year. Police have not determined whether they are related, Sinopoli said.
More than 50 witnesses have been identified, he said.
Police are in possession of several videos but they believe more videos are circulating.
“We are very concerned about the distribution of the videos on social media,” he said. “The unintended consequences are far-reaching and detrimental to the recovery of the victim.”
He urged immediate deletion of videos from all phones and devices, warning that possession of the videos could lead to charges.
The six boys have each been charged with assault, gang sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon. All charges are for the alleged sexual assault police learned about on Wednesday in relation to the video, police said.
The charged boys are under 18 and cannot be identified under Canada’s Young Offenders Act.
They were scheduled to appear in court today.
Ramer called it a “complex investigation,” which was continuing, and he warned additional charges may be laid if warranted.
The school released a statement at noon today fully supporting the police decision to arrest six of its expelled students.
“The incidents of sexualized assault that happened to our students and on our school grounds are simply horrific. They are completely offensive to everything we strive to teach the young men who attend St. Michael’s College School.
“Our students are heart broken. Our faculty and staff are heart broken. Our community is heart broken. Our hearts ache for the victims.”
The statement concluded the school clearly has a problem. “We need to improve our culture and our students’ ability to talk to us,” it said.
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