Reports that colleagues threw a party for a teacher convicted of sexually assaulting and exploiting students at St. John’s Catholic High School led to a protest at the school Tuesday, May 11.
Lily Trudel called on fellow students to protest by staging a virtual walk out or “log out,” since the school is physically closed due to the pandemic. In a Facebook post Monday, May 10 she asked students to show their support for the victims of former teacher Jeff Peters by logging out and refusing to attend any teams or school meetings, and encouraging others to do the same.
Trudel asked students to respond to a poll posted on Instagram to gauge participation. At the end of the day Tuesday, she reported that 169 students responded to the poll, with 88 per cent indicating that they logged off in protest.
Trudel said she was moved to take action by the recent posting of an online open letter to the school and to the Catholic School Board of Eastern Ontario by former St. John’s Student Elizabeth Holmes. The former student took the school and the board to task for failing to make any public statement regarding the case of Peters, who was sentenced on April 29 to three-and-a-half years in jail for the sexual assault of one student and the sexual exploitation of another. Rumours that two fellow teachers hosted a going away party for Peters prior to the sentencing also fuelled her decision to protest.
The failure of the board to make a public statement or to take action against the teachers believed to have thrown a party for Peters shows “serious lack of support for the victims,” said Trudel.
The board did release a statement Monday afternoon, stating that it had acted quickly when Peters became the subject of a police investigation, suspending him immediately. The board has also asked the Ontario College of Teachers to conduct a review.
Trudel’s mother, Lisa Brennan-Trudel, told the Hometown News that hosting a party for the convicted teacher was “totally unprofessional.
“It’s not even human.”
Trudel and her mother said they had heard about the party from sources they consider credible.
“I believe the source was a very valid source,” said Trudel. “I have no doubt it is true.”
Media reports have quoted individuals who stated that they attended the event, but requested anonymity.
The full text of the Catholic School Board of Eastern Ontario’s statement to media on May 10 is as follows:
“The Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario acted promptly when news that a former employee, Mr. Jeffrey Peters, breached the Board’s well-established and strict guidelines on the proper conduct between teacher and student. The teacher was immediately suspended and the Board fully cooperated with the police in their investigation. Following the Board’s own review of the situation, the teacher was terminated from his employment with the CDSBEO.
“The Board takes seriously its responsibility to care for the students in its schools and remains committed to ensuring a safe learning environment for all.
“Parents and guardians should be assured that CDSBEO has strict rules and procedures in place to protect students, including the duty to report any suspicious incidents, a joint Child Protection Protocol for all schools, training for staff and administrators, engagement of Crisis Consultants and a close working relationship with the Children’s Aid Society.
“St. John CHS continues to provide ongoing support to students and staff. Any member of the community who may be a victim themselves or require support can contact any of the below listed community agencies.
Victim Services Lanark County – 1-866-575-0067 after-emergency homeless 613-206-1486
Lanark County Mental Health – 613-283-2170
Open Doors for Lanark Children and Youth – 613-283-8260 https://www.opendoors.on.ca/
Lanark County Interval House – Sexual Assault Support Program – 613-253-3336 https://lcih.org/sexual-assault-support-program/
Sexual Assault Domestic Violence Program, Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital – 613-283-2330 extension 1258 https://psfdh.on.ca/sexualassault
“Given that the Board has referred this matter to the Ontario College of Teachers for review, it would be inappropriate to make any further comments at this time.
“CDSBEO continues to offer prayers for all those impacted.”