Perth students protest gathering for teacher convicted of sexual assault
PERTH, ONT. -- Some students at St. John Catholic High school in Perth boycotted their virtual classes Tuesday. They are angry over a gathering that was held recently in support of convicted teacher Jeff Peters.
Peters was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual exploitation. He was originally charged with 10 counts.
Maddison McNeely, a Grade 10 at St. John, says she learned a gathering in support of Peters recently took place and was organized and attended by teachers of the school.
“One of my friends had told me that she heard there was a going away party thrown by a couple of the teachers at St. John,” says the 15-year-old. “When she said the names it kind of made me scared because it was two of the teachers that I had this year.”
McNeely says those two teachers were her English and math teachers. McNeely’s mother Heidi says she is enraged to hear teachers at the school would engage in such conduct.
“That blows my mind,” says the exacerbated mother. “I’ve had phone conversations with both of these people and I just can’t understand it.”
In a statement, the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario did not confirm the gathering or the send off, but said the following regarding the charges against Peters:
“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 said.
“It just upsets me so much and it really bothers me that she was in a classroom with these people,” says Maddison’s mother, who adds she is considering pulling her daughter from the school.
Now McNeely and her mother are calling for action to be taken over the gathering as well, both saying that firings are not out of the question.
“I know some people that it happened to,” says the Grade 10 student referring to Peters’ victims, “and just the fact that they’re okay with that and let everyone know that, I just don’t understand.”
“These staff that attended this party are sending a message,” says Heidi McNeely. “Not only to the victims, the victims’ families, but also to the rest of the kids in the student body. It just makes me wonder, are the kids safe there?”
“I don’t feel comfortable attending a school with people who support or believe in that,” says Maddison. The 15-year-old adds that it speaks to the culture of the faculty, with the teenager revealing that she receives comments about her clothing and physical appearance as well.
“There’s been comments made about girls’ uniforms and stuff, our skirts,” explains McNeely. “There’s definitely comments being made to friends and even me. It’s just disgusting and so he (Peters) is not the only one.”