Principal didn't check swim test results before trip in which student drowned

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TORONTO — A high school principal says he didn't check the results of a mandatory swim test before a student canoe trip during which a teenager drowned nearly four years ago.

Monday Gala, who was principal of C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute at the time of the 2017 incident, is testifying at the trial of Nicholas Mills.

Mills, a teacher at the school, led a group of Toronto high school students on field trip to Algonquin Provincial Park that July.

He is charged with criminal negligence causing the death of 15-year-old Jeremiah Perry, who drowned during the trip.

Perry vanished into the water at Big Trout Lake and a police dive team found his body the next day.

Prosecutors allege Mills paid little attention to safety rules regarding the trip.

Gala told the court Thursday that students seeking to take part in the trip had to take a swimming test ahead of time.

An initial plan called for those who failed the test to be excluded from the trip, but that raised concerns about equity, he testified.

The plan was then revised so that students who failed the test would be given swimming lessons and then submitted to a second test prior to the trip, he said.

Those who failed the second test would not be allowed on the canoe trip but would instead be given the chance to take part in another outdoor excursion later that did not involve water, he said.

Asked why he didn't inquire about the test results before the trip, Gala said that in hindsight, he understood why that would have been important.

But at the time, he said, "the itinerary is very clear, the guidelines are very clear...so it never occurred to me to say, 'can I see the swim test results.'"

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2021.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press