A private boarding school principal in the Barrie area has an assault conviction. He recently lost his teacher’s licence for sexual abuse of a student

Under the name “Anthony Ross” he was twice disciplined for professional misconduct by Ontario’s teacher regulator, both times following allegations of sexually abusing a student.

Last year, he lost his teaching licence after the regulator found him guilty of sexual misconduct with a student, and a criminal court found him guilty of assault.

Now under the name “Antonio Ross” he has surfaced as the principal of Convoy International Academy, a private boarding school for Canadian and international students nestled on a 22-acre wooded property in Utopia, near Barrie.

What has happened in the Ross case exposes a weakness in Ontario’s education system. Teachers and principals at a private school do not have to come under the provincial regulation system. Though his teaching credentials have been revoked, that only applies to publicly funded schools and any private schools that insist their educators have credentials from the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT).

In his opening address to students at Convoy, recorded just before the summer break, Ross, 57, extended greetings to Grade 9-12 students heading to Convoy, either in person or online.

“We work with each student, right from airport pickup to course selection each year and when you’re in your final year we help you get acceptance into the top universites in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, as well as other countries…I look forward to seeing each and every one of you on campus someday soon.”

In his LinkedIn profile (taken down when the Star began asking questions last week), Antonio Ross boasts of his expertise in developing curriculum at the York Region public school board for teaching English as a second language, and describes how he conducted leadership training for teaching assistants in “emotional development” and “child abuse.”

Convoy’s main campus is near Barrie, in a rural community called Utopia. There is a large red brick main building, small dormitories, and fields for a variety of sports offered as extracurriculars. Because of the pandemic, some students are having a difficult time getting to Canada from overseas. A school spokesperson said some students have arrived, with more to come. Tuition and boarding at the school is roughly $30,000 a year. Combined between its Markham and Barrie-area campuses, the school can accomodate about 200 students. Fifty students board at the Barrie campus.

On the school website, Ross writes that the school works hard to “motivate and teach students to become lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and global citizens.” He said the school is guided by the “Ontario Ministry of Education” and he thanks all of the parents who have sent students to Convoy. “I am very grateful for their trust in us.”

The Star has tried several times to speak to Ross, both at his school and his home in Richmond Hill. A woman who answered the door at his home warned a reporter to “get off the property or I am calling the police.”

At the school, the administrator, Michelle (she would not give her last name), said Ross never told her of his past.

“I (was) not aware of that before,” said Michelle. “I did not see anything weird or suspicious,” she said, then promised to “look into this.”

Michelle said Ross has for two years previous worked as a consultant for the school, but then was hired as principal early in 2021. A former principal at another Convoy campus, Manal Labib, said she knew Ross only as a “marketing consultant.”

As a principal in the private system, Convoy does not require OCT credentials. As to his disciplinary and criminal record, Convoy’s Michelle said she does not know if anyone at the school checked. She did not, she said. The Star did.

Ross began his teaching career in 1992. His legal name is Antonio Ross, but he was certified as a teacher under the name “Anthony Ross.” He earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from Lakehead University, and a bachelors in education from York University.

His teaching licence was issued by the Ontario College of Teachers which regulates most, but not all, teachers in Ontario.

In 1992, he began teaching elementary school in Scarborough with the Scarborough Board of Education (one of the predecessors of the Toronto District School Board). His teaching certification includes specialties in physical and health education and guidance. In later years he was working towards becoming a principal.

school building

Something happened in the 1994-95 school year when he was in his early 30s that would surface years later. In 2010, a complaint was made to Toronto Police regarding what were by then, considered historical allegations. By this time, Ross had moved school boards and was now teaching in York Region. Police arrested and charged Ross with five counts of sexual assault. He was alleged to have masturbated and French kissed a male Grade 8 student.

At trial, Ross was acquitted. Justice Timothy Lipson of the Ontario Court of Justice heard the testimony of both Ross and the complainant (by that time a grown man) and said in his judgment that he believes the student was “telling the truth” and he “preferred his evidence over that of the accused.” Justice Lipson said that despite this, the crown had not established Ross’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

During the protracted disciplinary proceedings that followed, the York board fired Ross, alleging that while in Scarborough he had participated in “grooming behaviour.” But after Ross and his teachers’ union appealed, a labour arbitrator reversed the decision in 2015, saying the school board had not proved its case “on the balance of probabilities.” Ross was reinstated at the school board. During the labour arbitration, it was also learned that over the years, Ross has also worked as a tutor (separate from his teaching duties) and for 25 years was both a summer day camp counsellor and supervisor of counsellors in training. A former camper testified during the labour arbitration hearing that when he was “14 and 15” he had odd interactions with Ross, who kissed him quickly several times and told him he “loved” him.

Separate from the labour arbitration, related allegations from 1994-95 made their way to an Ontario College of Teachers hearing in 2016 and Ross pleaded guilty to professional misconduct involving the same student, but relating to lesser incidents in comparison with the criminal charges.

Here is a summary of what he said happened, according to an agreed statement of facts between Ross and the college.

Ross was the home room teacher for a Grade 8 student whose father was diagnosed with cancer. The student’s mother asked Ross to provide additional academic help, including tutoring the student at the student’s home.

“In or about October 1994, (Ross) began telling the student that he cared for him and loved him,” Ross’ agreed statement of facts reads. Ross frequently drove the student home from school hockey games. One time, the student’s mother saw Ross and her son holding hands. In his testimony, Ross told the arbitrator that he recalls heading to a school hockey game (Ross was in the back seat with the student while the parents were in the front seat) and putting his hand on the boy’s hand and “encouraging (him) to play well that day.” Ross told the arbitrator “their hands were not together for the whole drive, but a shorter period of time.”

Ross did not testify at the college hearing, but in the agreed statement of facts “he acknowledges that his conduct was inappropriate and could have been misconstrued as a romantic gesture.” The former student, during the labour arbitration (where he testified that Ross had masturbated and French kissed him numerous times) said he had been crushed by his interactions with Ross, something he had kept secret from his parents, and later his wife, out of shame and embarassment.

The college found Ross guilty of professional misconduct and gave him a three-month teaching suspension. In 2016, he was ordered to take a course on boundary violations.

Two years later, in June 2018, police were back at the his door. He was by this time teaching high school. Ross was arrested and charged with sexual assault on a male high school student. There was a plea agreement and Ross pleaded guilty in early 2019 to the lesser included offence of assault — the more severe charge of sexual assault was dropped by the crown.

In an agreed statement of fact, Ross admitted to meeting a student in the guidance office where the student was going to write a science test. The student was described to the court as having a learning disability. Ross asked the student personal questions about his family and “his body” and then “extended his right hand, grabbed the victim’s right breast, squeezed it for 25-30 seconds.” Then, according to the guilty plea, Ross asked the victim about his arms and ran his index finger up and down the victim’s right bicep. Then Ross grabbed the victim’s breast again and squeezed it for five seconds.

In a victim impact statement read into court, the student said this has caused him to have “very low self-confidence” and to feel “sad, depressed, anxious, disgusted.” The student’s mother also provided a victim impact statement. She told court that she trusted Ross who, she said, told her his school was “a perfect school” for her son, who struggled with academics.

On January 7, 2019, Justice Mary Ellen Misener handed Ross a 12-month conditional sentence, with the first four months to be served in his home, only leaving for necessities. (Ross requested he be allowed to go to out on Wednesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. to watch his daughter’s soccer games but the judge denied that request.) Though not convicted of sexual assault, Ross was required by the judge to provide a sample of his DNA to be stored in the national databank. He was banned by the judge from taking any teaching position, paid or voluntary, for one year.

By that time, Ross, using the name “Antonio Ross,” had set up a private education consulting company. Information posted on international education websites shows Ross was trying to recruit teachers to teach English overseas.

He had also started with Convoy International Academy as a consultant, helping them attract students to the private boarding school. He became principal just after his probation ended in early 2020.

Neither Michelle nor Ross have responded to a dozen emails and calls by the Star since Monday.

The Star provided a summary of its investigation to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce. A spokesperson responded that as far as publicly funded schools go, the ministry prevents any teacher or principal from working in the school system if they have been found to have sexually abused a student, a move that came about after two high profile investigations by the Star over the past decade. Those rules, the spokesperson said, only apply to a private school if it chooses to follow them.

“Private schools operate as businesses or non-profit organizations,” the spokesperson said.