Former St. Mike's principal defends school's handling of sex assault on campus

·4 min read

TORONTO — The former principal of an all-boys private school said he did not report a sexual assault on campus to police right away because he was worried about the teen victim, a Toronto court heard Friday.

Greg Reeves resigned as principal of the prestigious St. Michael's College School in November 2018 — 10 days after a student showed him a video that showed a sexual assault on campus.

A teenage boy is on trial for allegedly participating in two sexual assaults against two students in October and November 2018.

Court has heard one incident occurred in the football team's locker room on Nov. 7, which was captured on video and shared on social media.

On Nov. 12, a student showed Reeves the video.

Reeves told court that when he watched the video around 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 12, he wasn't sure who was in it or where the incident occurred.

He said he did not tell police about the incident until a Toronto police officer came to the school for an unrelated matter around 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 14.

"It was in the best interest to help the victim," he said of the delay.

"There was never no intent not to call police, but it was to protect the victim and their family."

Toronto police said at the time the school should have notified them immediately.

The accused teen has pleaded not guilty to two counts each of gang sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon related to two incidents in which students were sexually assaulted with a broom handle.

No young person can be named due to provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Reeves said he began an internal investigation on the morning of Nov. 13 by calling in the vice-principals for help.

They believed it involved members of the football team, but they could not identify the perpetrators so they called in two of the team's coaches to help.

From there, the group identified four students involved in the sexual assault, including the accused.

The vice-principal told court last week he saw the accused in the video holding down the arms of the victim when he watched the video with the principal.

The principal then turned to deal with another hazing incident that occurred around the same time.

Under cross-examination from the defence, Reeves said the school was also in the process of expelling four students that morning for their role in bullying another student.

In that incident, which occurred on Nov. 6, four boys on the basketball team had put a student, wearing only his underwear, into a sink, ran the water and slapped him.

There was also a second victim in that incident, which became known around the Catholic school as the "baptism."

Reeves then had "expulsion meetings" with those students before turning his attention to the sexual assault around 12:30 p.m.

They interviewed the students involved, including the victim. He said he helped the victim tell his father, who then asked Reeves to delay calling police until his wife could return to town.

Reeves said he complied.

He said he focused on the internal investigation first because he considered the perpetrators a threat to student safety.

"I know you want me to say I have a duty to call police, but I have a duty to students," Reeves told defence lawyer Geary Tomlinson.

"It would have been way faster than police to find the students who committed the assault and to remove them from the school and to assist (the victim,)" Reeves said.

Reeves said the school had a bullying problem.

"You agree the best efforts to keep students safe failed, is that correct?" Tomlinson asked.

"I would say that’s correct," Reeves said.

A former teammate of the accused also testified Friday about the sex assault that took place in October.

He said accused teen pulled down the pants of a student while another student held the victim's upper body down. A third student then sexually assaulted the victim with a broom handle.

Three teens have pleaded guilty to sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon for their roles in the incidents and have been sentenced to two years of probation.

One of them also pleaded guilty to making child pornography for recording one of the sex assaults in a video that was widely distributed.

Another student received a two-year probationary sentence with no jail time after pleading guilty. The charges against another student, aside from the one who testified, were withdrawn.

The trial continues on March 25.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2021.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press