WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.
Former students of a private Christian school in Saskatchewan where physical and sexual abuse is alleged to have taken place say the provincial government needs to be more transparent and take further action against former employees of the school.
They say the province’s decision to appoint an administrator to oversee three schools in response to the allegations is not enough and that the people accused shouldn’t be allowed to keep working in schools while the allegations are investigated.
“I think it’s very clear what needs to be done when there are allegations of child abuse against people in positions of authority over children,” said Stefanie Hutchinson.
“You just remove the people while you investigate.”
WATCH| Sask. government steps in following allegations of abuse at private Christian schools
Earlier this month, an investigation by CBC News detailed years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse allegedly endured by students of the former Saskatoon Christian Centre Church and the Christian Centre Academy school, now known as Mile Two Church and Legacy Christian Academy.
The abuse is alleged to have been carried out by staff and leadership at the school and adjacent church.
More than 30 former students of the school have filed criminal complaints, and a class action lawsuit is seeking $25 million in damages.
A former Christian Centre Academy youth pastor said in an interview with CBC News that the allegations are “100 per cent true.”
Saskatoon police have confirmed an investigation and say they handed the file to Crown prosecutors back in April for consideration of possible charges.
In response, Minister of Education Dustin Duncan stepped in and announced that the province would appoint administrators to oversee operations at three schools — Legacy Christian Academy, Regent Academy in Prince Albert and Grace Christian School in Saskatoon — all of which employ people named in the class action lawsuit.
‘Abdication’ of responsibility
Stefanie Hutchinson and her sister Christina Hutchinson say they are confused and disappointed by the lack of concrete action taken by the provincial government.
The sisters attended Christian Centre Academy from kindergarten to Grade 12.
“What more do they need?” said Stefanie.
The sisters have grave concerns and say the decision to appoint an administrator — rather than removing the teachers from the schools — is baffling.
“It’s a delay in ensuring the safety of the children who will be coming to these schools. It just does not make any sense, except that the ministry is trying to avoid maybe having to make some hard decisions,” said Stefanie. “It’s an abdication, really, of their responsibility.”
Lack of answers
The provincial government has declined to say how many of the 21 people named in the lawsuit remain teachers in Saskatchewan or are involved with the schools being placed under administration.
However, in a statement, the Ministry of Education confirmed that those three schools were placed under administration because they have “someone employed” who was named in the lawsuit.
The province did not provide a response when asked to provide the names of the people from the lawsuit employed at the three schools.
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Christine says that as a parent, she expects school to be a safe place for her children and that she has a right to know if teachers have had allegations of abuse or any kind of misconduct made against them.
“They should be making the public aware so that they can make decisions for the best interests of them and their families,” she said.
Stefanie agreed, saying that if the province has issues with naming those under scrutiny then at the very least it should make sure they’re removed from positions where they have authority or interact with children.
Regent Academy has not responded to a request for comment.
Grace Christian School in Saskatoon provided a statement saying it welcomed the appointment of an administrator.
“The safety and well-being of our students has always and will always be our primary concern. We’ve always cooperated fully with the Ministry of Education, and will continue to do so,” the statement reads.
Despite being asked, Grace Christian School did not identify who it employs that is named in the lawsuit.
The administrators at each of the schools have yet to be selected, but will be in place by the start of the 2022/2023 school year, according to the Ministry of Education.