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Police have video of alleged assault with a belt as St. Michael's probe expands

TORONTO — An investigation into allegations of assault and sexual assault at St. Michael's College School has expanded after police said Tuesday they have received videos of two more incidents they believe are related to the private all-boys' school in Toronto.

Insp. Domenic Sinopoli, the head of the Toronto police sex crimes unit, said officers were trying to identify all the persons in the videos, one of which involved an assault with a weapon. The second incident was a threat, he said, noting that no one was injured.

"As it stands right now, we are investigating them as criminal offences, but that is not to say they are criminal offences," he said at a news conference.

The weapon used in the alleged assault was a belt, Sinopoli said as he urged both victims and witnesses to come forward.

"I would rather that the persons who have been victimized or witnesses come to us rather than us coming to you," he said.

The latest incidents bring to six the number of cases under police investigation that involve students of the Roman Catholic school that teaches grades 7 to 12. Police and the school have said two of those incidents involved an alleged sexual assault.

Six teens from the school, aged 14 and 15, were arrested Monday and charged with assault, gang sexual assault, and sexual assault with a weapon in connection with one of the incidents. Five of the teens turned themselves in to police, while another one was arrested while on his way to school.

All six boys were released on bail on Monday afternoon. Their next court appearance is on Dec. 19.

The school, whose failure to promptly report the alleged sexual assault to police last week has come under criticism, said the recent incidents clearly indicate it has "a problem."

The school had scheduled a meeting with alumni Tuesday evening for an "open discussion" about the scandal, said a former St. Michael's student who planned to attend.

"This is a pure teaching point and this stuff doesn't just happen at St. Michael's," he said. "It's not the culture of the school, it's the culture of society."

La Rosa, who attended St. Michael's from 1980 to 1985, stressed that the incident of the alleged sex assault "crossed the line."

"I want to see alumni stand with the students and say 'this happened here — we can't just hope it goes away.'"

Another former student, John-Paul Bedard, was more pessimistic about the alumni meeting. Late last week, Bedard came forward with his own allegations of violent hazing when he was a student at St. Michael's in the 1980s.

"I haven't been pleased with the reaction of the school," he said.

Bedard said he has sent messages to the school's board of directors and its principal about his hazing experiences with an offer to speak to students as an advocate for survivors of sexual violence.

"Not one person at the school has even acknowledged the messages," Bedard said.

Police have said they believe there are more incidents and more videos.

St. Michael's expelled eight students and suspended another one in connection with the alleged sexual assault in a locker room and another incident that police said involved hazing. Both incidents were captured on video.

Police sources have said the locker room incident involved a group of students pinning down another student and allegedly sexually assaulting him with a broom handle.

"We have a responsibility to keep our students safe, but our best efforts failed," the school's principal, Greg Reeves, told a news conference late on Monday.

In an email to parents on Tuesday, the school said the victims of the "horrendous acts" are being supported and cared for.

"We remain focused on our entire student body — their safety, care, and well-being are our main priority," the school said.

The school has also set up an anonymous tip line to help report "any inappropriate behaviours and incidents they have experienced, seen, or heard about at the school."

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said the culture at the school may need to change.

"What we need to look for is leadership from all fronts here, from parents, from the administration of the school and from the community ... to make sure that we learn from this and that justice is served," he said.

St. Michael's is run by the Basilian Fathers with roots dating back to the Congregation of St. Basil in France. The school is known for its athletic programs, and more than 200 former students have gone on to play for the NHL, including hockey greats Frank Mahovlich, Dave Keon and Tim Horton. Other alumni include Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.

The school said Tuesday all events involving external groups, sports teams, and public performances were being cancelled for the remainder of the year.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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