NEWS

Martingrove Collegiate parents meet after staff member charged with sexual assault

11/04/2014 06:53 EST | Updated 01/04/2015 05:59 EST
Parents of Martingrove Collegiate Institute students met Monday evening to express concerns and discuss plans for moving forward amid allegations that a school staff member sexually assaulted a teen.

Richard Ford, 43, a special needs assistant at the north Etobicoke school, was charged by Toronto police on four sex-related counts, including two counts of sexual assault, last Friday.

Police allege that Ford sexually assaulted a 13-year-old student “on numerous occasions” between October 2010 and December 2011. In a media release distributed last week, police said they believe there may be more victims.

News of Ford’s arrest sent shock waves through the student population and raised concerns among parents.

“It’s disturbing that anywhere is really not as safe as you’d like it to be anymore, and I feel for the student and their family and the school community having to deal with this,” said Cynthia Sranko, a representative of the school’s parent council.

Ford was reportedly a popular figure at the school.

“I was shocked because I met the guy. [Ford] was a pretty nice teacher. So I was shocked and my son also,” said Lily McDonald, a parent of a student at Martingrove Collegiate.

“I think [my son] was emotional because he liked him.”

The meeting, organized by the Toronto public school board, was intended to update parents on the ongoing police investigation and reassure them that the school is taking every possible measure to ensure the safety of its students.

Ryan Bird, a spokesman for the TDSB, told CBC News earlier Monday that Ford was “on home assignment” until the investigation concludes.

“It is important to note for parents that the staff member involved in this, in these charges, is on home assignment pending the outcome of an investigation, this staff member will not be back at this school or any other school prior to the outcome of that investigation,” Bird said.

The meeting was closed to media, but at least one parents told CBC News that he’s satisfied with the response of the board and police to the allegations against Ford.

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