Alumni call for end to 'bully mentality' at all-boys school
Published Wednesday, November 21, 2018 4:37PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 21, 2018 5:42PM EST
Calls for resignations were heard Tuesday night as alumni of a private all-boys school in Toronto met in the wake of allegations of student-on-student assaults and sexual assaults.
Some graduates of St. Michael’s College School called for the school’s principal and president to leave their posts due to the ongoing turmoil, which now has police investigating six incidents as potentially criminal. Others expressed sympathy, saying administrators believed they were doing what was best for the alleged victim of the first incident.
“I think the leadership has to be held accountable. I think we need a reset there, period. And there were calls for resignations,” St. Michael’s alumni Dave Trafford told CTV News Channel Wednesday.
“There were unvarnished questions. There were issues that came up that insisted and demanded accountability from the leadership at the school.”
Six students have been charged with sexual assault in connection with one incident, in which a video allegedly shows members of the school **sexually assaulting another boy with a broom handle. Police have said they are investigating five other incidents, including another alleged sexual assault.
The school’s principal, Greg Reeves, has been criticized for not alerting police about the video involving the alleged sexual assault until nearly two days after he learned about it. Reeves has said he believed he had the alleged victim’s best interests at heart. Police have said they believe Reeves would have handled the incident differently in hindsight, and Trafford seems to agree.
“You cannot question Greg Reeves’ commitment to the boys at the school,” he said.
In a statement, the school’s board of directors said they are standing behind both the president and principal.
“We are united in our support of the School’s leadership. Both President Fr. Jefferson Thompson, CSB and Principal Greg Reeves were hired because of their dedication and care for students throughout their careers. That remains the primary focus, and they continue to have the full support of the Board for how this situation is being handled. They are both men of the highest integrity and continue to have our trust to lead us forward. Witnessing the standing ovation at last night’s alumni meeting, many of whom are current and past parents, I believe that Fr. Thompson and Mr. Reeves have their overwhelming support. As a school community, we want to ensure that these incidents do not happen again.”
Since the allegations came to light, another St. Michael’s alumnus – Jean-Paul Bedard – has said he was the victim of sexual violence while attending the school in the 1980s.
Speaking on CTV News Channel on Wednesday, Bedard said the school now appears to be serious about ending the “bully mentality” that he says has pervaded it for decades.
“St. Mike’s has an opportunity to become a real leader in changing the culture at these types of private boys’ schools,” he said.
“I don’t want these young men to have an experience like I had.”
Bedard compared the situation at St. Michael’s to that of Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer who is now accused of sexually assaulting women. Weinstein denies all accusations of nonconsensual sex.
“Because of all the dominance in that industry for so long, he was held to a higher account – and that’s just what’s happening at St. Mike’s,” he said.
Trafford said his time at St. Michael’s included certain “rites of initiation” but nothing as serious as the allegations that have come out in recent weeks.
“There were cases where the rookie on the hockey team shows up in class one day missing an eyebrow and part of his head is shaved,” he said.
Trafford, who has also had a son graduate from St. Michael’s, said the school’s alumni have a role to play in righting wrongs and restoring trust.
“It’s not good enough to say ‘Oh well, it’s not about me anymore,’” he said.
“We need to stand up and take some responsibility in making sure this turns properly, that the right things are done for the right reasons, that the boys are taken care of.”