OPINION: Silence regarding assaults at St. Mike’s evidence of toxic culture

by | Nov 28, 2018 | Opinion

Ross Lopes
Life Editor

St. Michael’s College School’s sexual assault scandal is a reminder we as a community failed to protect the youth of our streets, not to mention failing at teaching young men the dangers of toxic masculinity.

What the boys of St. Michael’s called a “hazing incident” — the act of humiliating someone in initiation rituals — was in reality a malicious act of male dominance and sexual violence.

Bill Dunphy, a former student from St. Michael’s and retired journalist, said the message of stressing physical strength and domination starts with the teachers, the coaches and the administration.

In sports, Dunphy said, “They view the hazing as team-building. They view it as a rite of passage and initiation. I think that, the choice of how to initiate and build a team is rooted in that toxic masculinity.

“That unchecked leads to the kind of abuses — and they’re wide spread and they’re on a whole spectrum from minor, [such as] flicking your towel at somebody … to physical assault, to sexual assault,” he said. “Those are all points on a continuum that start from that basic idea of what it is to be a man, and it’s wrong.”

In the past month, there have been six incidents of sexual assault that were reported and most of them were videotaped. One in particular meets the definition of child pornography.

How do we find any justification that this type of behaviour is acceptable? Well one justification came from former St. Michael’s principal, Gregory Reeves — who recently announced his resignation on Nov. 22.

“Toronto Police told reporters Reeves did not report the alleged sexual assault until officers, who had been contacted by media, showed up at the school on Nov 15,” two days after Reeves knew about the assault, the CBC reported. CityNews Toronto reported Reeves said he held off on promptly informing police about the locker-room video because the victim hadn’t yet told his family about the incident.

Dunphy said he thinks Reeves was following what he believed was best for the student body and the school and would get to his legal obligation in due time.

“It’s understandable, but it’s wrong,” Dunphy said. “The danger is that the school portrays an attitude that it’s something the school believes they can handle by themselves instead of bringing in the outside world, which then leads to the problems that are very familiar with the catholic church.”

The Ontario Ministry of Education requires public school principals to follow local police and school board protocols when involving police. Indeed, the ministry requires that if school board employees believe a student needs protection, they must continue to follow the usual procedure and call the children’s aid society as outlined in the Child, Youth and Family Services Act.

Private schools do not have the same protocols. If they did, maybe it wouldn’t have taken two days before reporting to the police.

NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles stated in The Toronto Star the Education Act offers little oversight or regulations in private schools. Regardless of the reasoning behind Reeve’s not immediately calling police, what happened should have been reported immediately. There is no justification for it. The silence we allow gives young boys the ability to think it’s ok to do.

“The silence is the acceptance of it, it’s establishing norms of masculine behavior and what it means to be a man,” Dunphy said.

Currently, six boys face charges of assault, gang assault and sexual assault with a weapon, and police are still investigating a number of other allegations of assault and sexual assault at the school. St. Mike’s should take this as a wake-up call, and make sure this never happens again.

Doce Me Bonitatem et Disciplinam et Scientiam,” or Teach Me Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge, is the school motto. They seem to be in short supply.