Some St. Michael’s College School alumni are painting markedly different pictures of the realities of student life at the storied private school after allegations of group sexual assault surfaced this week.
CityNews spoke to a former student who says he attended the all-boys private Catholic school between 2009 and 2013 and described an atmosphere of “toxic masculinity” that still troubles him to this day.
The former student, who didn’t want his name used, said he was verbally bullied throughout all of the four years he attended.
“There’s a lot of big egos at the school and there always has been and people always want to be on top and stand out and there’s very toxic masculinity that goes on there,” he said in a phone interview Thursday. “I was definitely abused verbally.”
The former student says he tried out for the football and hockey teams, but never made the cut. He also alleged that hazing was an unpleasant, but frequent part of student life.
“There was a lot of hazing,” he alleged. “And a lot of times it did go too far and that contributed to me leaving after Grade 10. There’s other personal reasons why I left, but being bullied, I couldn’t take it anymore.”
Another former student reached out to CityNews through email, sharing this disturbing account:
“My clothes were thrown in the trash, students would spit, grab me or throw the odd punch. On at least two occasions other students rubbed their genitals on me.”
Akil Thomas, a Los Angeles Kings draft pick, attended the school between 2015 and 2016. He said he didn’t see any evidence of harassment or hazing during his two years playing on the school’s hockey team.
“I’ve never seen any of that when I was there … The only rookie thing I had to do was pack the bags onto the bus,” he said.
“I felt that St. Mike’s was pretty strict in terms of behaviour, If you went on a road trip or spent a weekend somewhere, the coaches and everyone was really strict on how we behaved.”
As a St Mike’s alumni, I have to say I was honoured and privileged to be able to attend the school. The recent disappointing news does not in any way reflect the school community, brotherhood, rituals , or integrity of my brothers Ⓜ️
— Akil Thomas (@AkilThomas2) November 15, 2018
Thomas, who is currently living in Los Angeles and is a prospect with the Kings, said he was perplexed when he heard about the allegations that students recorded a sexual assault and shared it online.
Police have since come forward saying the video is considered child porn and advised students to delete it immediately.
“I felt there was more of a brotherhood at St. Mike’s,” he said. “We were all brothers. That’s why I can’t really wrap my head around this current situation.”
Neither can a former junior football player named Mike, who says he graduated in 2018.
“I myself played on the junior football team … We never had any instances like this. The camaraderie … in the dressing room was big. We all pulled jokes here and there, everything you’d expect from a typical sports team. But never an instance like that has ever happened on any of the sports teams at St. Mike’s that I’ve been a part of or bore witness to.”
Former Toronto city councillors Joe Mihevc and Josh Colle both attended St. Michael’s College School and are lamenting the allegations that have thrust their alma mater into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Mihevc and Colle played football at the school, but contend the atmosphere was anything but toxic.
Mihevc, who lost to Josh Matlow (Ward 12) in the recent election, said he enjoyed his time as a student and athlete.
“Honestly, I didn’t experience that and I played on the football team,” he said on Thursday. “But this goes back to the early ’70s, so honestly I can’t speak to how things have been through the last little while. But for me that wasn’t the case when I was there.”
According to the St. Michael’s College website, Colle has long ties to the school. Both he and his father attended, and two of his sons are currently enrolled there.
The former TTC chair, who announced his retirement from municipal politics in July, said he never experienced bullying or saw anything like the alleged incidents that police are now investigating.
“Certainly at my time at the school I never noticed any of that, and if anything it was quite the opposite,” he said. “It was an environment of camaraderie and nurturing from staff … so no, certainly that was not my experience at St. Mike’s.”
Both say they’re upset by the recent allegations that have led to student expulsions and a police probe.
“When you hear it’s your old school, that’s also further upsetting,” Mihevc said. “It’s tough.”
“To me … the first and primary reaction is for the poor child, for whom this (allegedly) happened. That’s my primary concern and of course I’m concerned about a very good school and this tarnishing their reputation.”
St. Michael’s College School is rich with tradition. Founded in 1852, it has boasted several notable alumni, including NHL stars Eric Lindros, Bobby Bauer, Frank Mahovlich, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza.
Former Ontario Conservative Party leader and current mayor-elect of Brampton Patrick Brown also attended the school.