Staff at a group of Jewish private schools in Toronto did not notify authorities of allegations of sexual assaults dating back to the 80s, police say after an investigation that has now led to sexual assault charges being laid against a 55-year-old former Toronto elementary school teacher .
Stephen Schacter is now facing gross indecency, sexual assault and exploitation charges that date back to the 1980s and 1990s.
Police say the whole investigation started to take shape in December 2015 when he was arrested for possession of child pornography.
At the time, a photo of Schacter was released and began to circulate in the press. Investigators say that led to three people coming forward with allegations of assault.
Police say Schacter worked as an elementary school teacher teaching Grade 1 and Grade 2 for the Eitz Chaim private schools between 1986 and 2004. But investigators say the earliest alleged sexual offence goes back to 1982.
"It is alleged that Mr. Schacter had ready access to these children as a result of his teaching positions and his status in the community," said Det. Const. Joel Manherz at a news conference Monday.
In addition to the three complainants that have come forward, police believe other students reported allegations to staff at Eitz Chaim private schools while he worked at the schools.
"So far those victims are choosing not to make a statement to the police," said Manherz. "I think it's just a matter of finding the courage they need to come forward."
Elias Levy, Executive Director at Eitz Chaim, said the schools are helping the police investigation "in every way possible."
"The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority," Levy said in a statement to CBC News.
"We have a thorough and rigorous screening process in place for hiring staff, which includes a full police check as well as [a] vulnerable sector screening test that is regulated by the police."
Police say school staff did not report student allegations to police
While legislation that would have compelled the schools to report those allegations to police didn't exist yet, Manherz said he believes they "absolutely" had an obligation to contact police.
"Not all of them probably did what they should [have]," Manherz told reporters in regards to staff at the Jewish private schools.
Police say that shortly after the "last incident" they know of at Eitz Chaim, Schacter was asked to leave the schools. But police have found no indication that records of his actions was passed on to future employers.
After being let go from Eitz Chaim in 2004, Schacter spent a year working as a teaching assistant for Grade 1 and Grade 2 at Pleasant Avenue Public School, near Steeles Avenue and Bathurst Street.
Then police say he worked at the United Synagogue Day School from 2005 through 2009 in a variety of roles including: office administrator, student supervisor, supply teacher, and manager of the after-care extended-care program.
Schacter then worked as a private tutor from 2009 until 2011.
Last week he was arrested and charged with the following:
- Two counts of Sexual Assault
- Sexual Interference
- Sexual Exploitation
- Gross Indecency
The investigation is ongoing and police would like to hear from anyone who might have been subjected to inappropriate behaviour by Schacter.
Investigators can be reached at 416-808-8500 or anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 416-222-8477.