Grenville Christian College
|Grenville Christian College|
|Brockville, Ontario, Maitland, Ontario, Canada|
|School type||Co-ed Private Boarding/Day|
|Campus||rural Ontario setting|
Operated by members and clergy of the Anglican Church of Canada, the independent university preparatory school was composed of upper, middle, elementary and primary schools. Students had the option of being day students, full time boarders or weekday boarders.
The St. Mary's College campus was purchased in 1969 by a group called Berean Christian Schools, who envisioned using the facility for training missionaries. Although the exact time line is unclear, Berean Christian Schools began as a private school in 1969 and was renamed Grenville Christian College in 1973. It drew its staff from a religious community called the "Community of the Good Shepherd." This religious community was at one time connected to the Massachusetts-based organization founded by two women known as the Community of Jesus. A former public school principal was hired as headmaster in June 2002.
After 37 years, Grenville Christian College announced its closure on July 30, 2007, citing declining enrollment and unspecified financial pressures. A "Closing Celebration Weekend" was held on the weekend of September 29–30, 2007.
There were allegations of student abuse and cult practices at the school that were ultimately dismissed by the Anglican Diocese of Ontario. The church went on record rejecting calls to investigate misconduct complaints against school officials, but the church considered the possibility of sanctioning an ordained minister who was headmaster of the College for two decades. In September 2007, the Ontario Provincial Police began investigating two former headmasters who were also Anglican priests. The chair of the school's Board of Directors and the Bishop of the Diocese of Ontario denied that the school was ever formally affiliated with the Anglican Church of Canada. Anglican priests and bishops, however, had often officiated at the school's chapel services and the school flew the Anglican flag.
Since the school's closing, some former students have claimed punishments by silence and separation ("Discipline"), a form of internal suspension, as well as being woken in the middle of the night by having bright light shone in their faces and being interrogated about their alleged "sins". The former co-publisher of a local newspaper, The Recorder & Times, has stated that his newspaper became aware of allegations of religious cult practices at Grenville Christian College in the late 1980s, but was unable to convince anyone to publicize the story. The paper was also threatened with libel action by a Bay Street law firm.
According to some students in a Globe and Mail article: "the school was almost literally two communities, with one group – overseas students and the sons and daughters of wealthy Ontario families – not knowing what was happening to the other group – children with behaviour problems ... and the children of staff." Some staff children claim to have been treated the most harshly. The acting chairman of the school's Board of Directors formally apologized to students who felt they had been abused at any time in the school's history. In 2007, a lawsuit was launched against the College, the Anglican Church of Canada, two priests and their wives, claiming abuse of students. A second lawsuit was filed in January 2008.
In November 2008, following an investigation, the Ontario Provincial Police announced that there would be no charges laid involving the historical abuse allegations. "The OPP, in consultation with the Crown attorney, have decided not to lay any criminal charges in relation to the extensive investigation," the OPP said in a statement. "It wasn't in the interest of the public to lay any charges," said OPP Sgt. Kristine Rae in an interview with The Recorder and Times. "When you're looking at historical allegations, you're looking at the whole picture."
New York musician Michael Phelan, the son of a former Grenville headmaster and a former student at the school, talked with the OPP at length about his treatment by school staff. Mr. Phelan said: "I understand that it's notoriously difficult to prosecute child abuse cases. But at the same time, it doesn't mean that these things didn't really happen. It doesn't mean that I wasn't abused, that many students weren't abused. And I don't regret coming forward. I hope nobody does."
Conversely, other alumni agree that there were strict aspects to the school but would not categorize them as abusive. On September 3, 2007 the Globe and Mail published a letter to the editor from a former GCC student, Bruce Mackinnon (entitled "The Kind of School It Was"). He wrote: "I object in the strongest terms about your depiction of Grenville Christian College. In every kind of school, mistakes are made. I can assure you, the vast majority of the staff were kind, with only the best interests of the kids at heart. None of the kids expected rigid rules of conduct, but that was the kind of school it was, it was needed. I am one of the many kids who went through there and came out better for it and will be ever grateful to the staff and God. I hold no ill will toward the staff members... Everyone learns in life as they go, none of us are perfect."
Another letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail appeared in the Globe and Mail on September 3, 2007 from former student Jesse D. Billett, Research Fellow, University of Cambridge wrote: "My family could not afford private schooling, but I was granted a full scholarship at Grenville. On graduating, I could reject offers from the University of Toronto and Queen's University in favour of Harvard. The staff had human failings, but their selfless dedication changed my life".
- St. Mary's College alumni. "History of St. Mary's College". Retrieved 2007-09-07.
- The Globe and Mail (October 2007). "Mothers of invention.". Toronto. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
- The Prescott Journal (April 2005). "GCC begins search for new headmaster.". Retrieved 2007-09-07.
- Grenville Christian College (July 2007). "Grenville Christian College to Close.". Retrieved 2007-09-01.
- Grenville Christian College (August 2007). "Alumni Events : Closing Celebration Weekend September 29-30th, 2007.". Retrieved 2007-09-04.
- Globe & Mail (August 2007). "Dark past behind school's demise.". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved 2007-08-31.
- Ottawa Citizen (September 2007). "Anglican school's former students tell of brainwashing, abuse.". Retrieved 2007-09-09.
- The Recorder & Times (September 2007). "A tale of two GCC students: Strict discipline had different impact.". Retrieved 2007-09-08.
- Globe & Mail (September 2007). "Anglican bishop rejects ex-student's plea to investigate abuse claims.". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved 2007-09-06.
- Globe & Mail (September 2007). "Anglicans weigh sanctions against priest.". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved 2007-09-07.
- The Recorder & Times (September 2007). "Local bishop to meet with former students.". Retrieved 2007-09-08.
- The Recorder & Times (September 2007). "Farnsworth reaching out to ex-students 'Whatever happened on my watch, I just have to take responsibility.'". Retrieved 2007-09-08.
- The Globe and Mail (September 2007). "OPP open investigation into Grenville abuse claims.". Toronto. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
- Anglican Journal (September 2007). "Church denies that closed, controversial school was Anglican.". Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-09-06.
- Globe & Mail (September 2007). "Brockville's local paper was advised not to publish abuse allegations.". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved 2007-09-01.
- Globe & Mail (September 2007). "Born into abusive grip of a cult.". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved 2007-09-04.
- Globe & Mail (September 2007). "Apology for 'hurt and pain' at private school.". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved 2007-09-01.
- The Recorder & Times (September 2007). "GCC answering abuse allegations.". Retrieved 2007-09-06.
- CBC (September 2007). "Grenville Christian College chair apologizes for abuse.". CBC News. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
- The Globe & Mail (November 2007). "Former students suing Grenville.". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved 2007-11-06.
- Ottawa Citizen (January 17, 2008). Former Grenville Christian College students launch $200M class-action suit. Accessed 2010-01-25.
- Ottawa Citizen (November 25, 2008). No charges in Grenville Christian College investigation, OPP says. Accessed 2010-01-25.
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