A man who has been criminally convicted of assaulting a teenage student and has been deprived of his teaching permit for academic misconduct and sexual abuse is now the principal of a private high school that largely caters to international boarding students, CBC News has learned.
Anthony “Antonio” Ross pleaded guilty in 2019 after police charged him with assault in 2018.
He now works at Convoy International Secondary Academy [CISA], which charges students about $ 10,000 a year in tuition. Public records show that it is owned by a numbered company based in Ontario and another company based in Beijing, China.
According to the school’s website, Antonio Ross has been the school’s principal and education consultant since at least 2019.
CISA has two campuses: classrooms in an office building on Yonge Street in Markham, Ont., And a nearly nine-acre campus near Barrie, Ont., Which offers boarding.
Neither Ross nor CISA answered many questions from CBC News.
Ross can legally work in private school
There is nothing legal that prevents someone convicted of a crime or deprived of their teaching permit from working at a private school.
Under provincial law, only public school boards in Ontario are required to collect detailed information on crime, police, and professional background about all school staff and even volunteers.
A criminal conviction for assaulting a child would normally disqualify someone from teaching or even volunteering at a public school.
However, provincial legislation does not require private schools to conduct background checks on school staff or mandates who may or may not work in one.
That’s a problem, according to Noni Classen, director of education for the Canadian Center for Child Protection.
“It is imperative that private schools be kept to the same standard and also stick to the same standard to protect children in their care,” she told CBC News.
“Parents need to be able to trust schools, and they have great faith in the schools in taking care of their children.”
It is unclear whether CISA screened Ross.
CBC News spoke with Ross by telephone at CISA. After a brief conversation, he provided his school email address but did not answer the questions sent to him or a follow-up email.
The 57-year-old principal and education consultant used to go by the name Anthony Ross when he taught with the York District School Board, north of Toronto.
Ross is no stranger to controversy
According to the August 2020 results from the Ontario College of Teachers Disciplinary Committee, the college determined that in April 2018, Ross was alone in a classroom with a male student who had a learning disability.
Ross sat close to the boy and began to ask him about his body.
“[Ross] said ‘wow’ then asked the student to let him see, “according to the college’s public findings.
“[Ross] looked to see if there was anyone else in the room and then proceeded to grab the student’s right chest with his right hand for about 30 seconds. [Ross] stated words with the effect of ‘Wow, you have a good breast’. “
Ross then ran his hand along the student’s arm and asked him about his body hair, according to the college.
Police charged Ross, and in 2019, he pleaded guilty to assault.
He was given a suspended sentence of 12 months, including a four-month house arrest and a firearms ban.
In another case, the college ruled that Ross had told another student that he loved him and had inappropriately touched the boy during the 1994/95 school year.
Ross was cleared of criminal charges in that case. But the college ruled that he was guilty of professional misconduct and deprived him of his license. It was later reinstated after a lawsuit.
When the college again last year took away Ross’ teaching license, he noted that he did not deny that his conduct constituted sexual abuse under the Ontario College of Teachers Act.
Ross also turned out to have committed a professional offense.
Why private schools have different rules
The Ontario Federation of Independent Schools represents 83 private schools in Ontario. The organization says that all member schools must conduct background checks of staff and volunteers annually.
CISA is not listed as a member of the organization.
So even though many private schools carry out criminal background checks on the staff, it is not required.
“Private schools operate as companies or non-profit organizations, independent of the ministry, and therefore set their own policies and procedures related to safety and behavior,” Api Panchalingam, senior coordinator for the Ontario Department of Education, said in an email to CBC News.
Principals and teachers in private schools are not required to be certified by the Ontario College of Teachers.
Panchalingam said parents, guardians and students should do their own research before enrolling in private schools, including getting information about a particular school’s education program, business practices and other policies.
But Classen, from the Canadian Center for Child Protection, says it’s not good enough to let parents and guardians control who teaches their children.
“It is very worrying for me to understand that it is potentially for individuals going to private school that there is a lower standard of measurement and a lower threshold for how in some places one can expect what is expected of those who can work with children . “