"All the same, it was pretty traumatic."
The four girls are back in class and
getting support while the accused will continue their studies at
home, Toronto District School Board education superintendent
Trevor Ludski said.
Arriving at Smithfield to pick up her
son's belongings yesterday, a distraught mother said she has
seen video footage of the accused and the alleged victims
together that day and insisted her son is innocent.
She said two incidents occurred that
afternoon, and that he played no role in the one over which he
She also complained of not being
properly informed about the charges.
"How did the media get here before the
parents know what's going on?" she asked.
Principal Rupert Costello said school
authorities delayed informing parents because the investigation
has up to now primarily been a police matter.
Mingling in the lunchtime sunshine, few
students seemed to have heard about the allegations, which come
on the heels of another alleged school-related sexual assault in
Toronto's north end that police believe occurred last October
but which did not surface until this past summer.
In that alleged attack, four male
students at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute near Keele Street
and Finch Avenue are accused of assaulting a 14-year-old Grade 9
Muslim girl in a washroom.
That alleged incident came to light only
after 15-year-old Jordan Manners was fatally shot in a hallway
at the school in May. An advisory panel headed by Toronto
criminal lawyer Julian Falconer was set up to examine safety
concerns at the high school, which has approximately 800
students. The sex-assault allegations relayed to the panel
resulted in four males now aged 15 to 18 being charged with gang
sexual assault, forcible confinement and conspiracy to commit an
Roughly 800 students in Grades 6, 7 and
8 attend Smithfield, located on Mount Olive Drive, near Kipling
and Steeles Avenues.
The students are drawn from a diverse,
multi-ethnic population. English is a second language for more
than 60 per cent of the pupils, 25 per cent of whom have been in
Canada for five years or less. About 30 different languages are
spoken, Smithfield's website says.
Its discipline record is uneven. Records
obtained by The Globe and Mail from the Toronto District School
Board last year showed that, of the 10 middle schools under its
jurisdiction, Smithfield had the third highest suspension rate:
From September, 2005, to February, 2006, there were 79 student
The charges laid yesterday appear to be
a first for Smithfield, TDSB education director Gerry Connelly
"It always is [a shock], and we will
certainly be co-operating with the police in their
investigation," she said.
"These are very young children and it is
tragic to see this happening ... but we don't have any evidence
of this happening in the past. ... I have every confidence in
the staff and administration of the school."