Student, 15, in critical condition after drive-by shooting at Weston Collegiate Institute
Shocked students returned to a high school in Toronto’s Weston neighbourhood from lunch break to see police officers rushing into the locked-down school as staff tried to help a 15-year-old boy who was shot in the parking lot.
Police say a Grade 10 student was shot from a vehicle carrying an unknown number of suspects just outside Weston Collegiate Institute around noon on Thursday. He then ran back inside with at least one gunshot wound in his upper chest. There, staff “immediately attended to him and tried to keep him supported until paramedics could arrive,” Toronto District School Board spokesperson Ryan Bird said.
As of Thursday night, the student, who has not been identified, was in critical condition. Police earlier confirmed his injuries were life threatening. No suspects have been arrested.
Tahir, a 17-year-old Weston C.I. student, said he was approaching the school after lunch with a friend when he saw the police.
“My heart stopped for a minute because I didn’t know where the shooter was,” he said.
“It felt like a life-or-death situation.”
The shooting comes on the heels of several violent incidents at Toronto schools that continue to trouble administrators and youth workers, including the fatal shooting of a recently-graduated student in the parking lot of Woburn Collegiate Institute in Scarborough this past November. In that case, some dozen students were witness to the disturbing event that was captured on video.
Police duty Insp. Ryan Forde told reporters outside the school Thursday afternoon he couldn’t say how many students would have been near the parking lot at the time, but said it would have been the typical traffic at lunch hour.
Forde said the victim was approached in the parking lot by an unknown number of male assailants and that the gun was fired from the car. The inspector had no suspect or car descriptions to provide and asked for anyone with surveillance footage in the area to provide it to police. It’s not known if the victim knew any of the suspects or how many people were in the car.
The injured boy was rushed to a critical care unit at a local trauma centre from the Lawrence Ave. West and Jane Street school, Forde said.
As police and TDSB officials updated the media, the lockdown at the school was in the process of being lifted. Students that were outside when the lockdown began were directed to Weston Memorial Junior Public School just up the street, a letter home from Weston C.I.’s principal Cynthia Nguyen said. When the lockdown was lifted, students and staff were relocated to C.R. Marchant Middle School, a short walk southwest of the high school, until the end of the school day.
“I would like to acknowledge our staff for their calm and expertise in following procedures today,” Nguyen’s letter read, “As well as students for their response to the lockdown situation.”
Outside the school Thursday, several parents could be seen waiting for the lockdown to be lifted in their cars.
Tahir said he and his friend had to take shelter at a local elementary school till he could call his dad and get permission to leave the area.
He recalled an incident at the school last year involving a pellet gun, where, the Star earlier reported, a 15-year-old was shot but had noncritical injuries. Two other teens were arrested.
“To go from a BB gun to an actual gun, that speaks volumes,” the student said. “It just shows that even at school, no one is safe.”
Outside the school, TDSB Director of Education Colleen Russell-Rawlins said “my heart is with the student and his family, as well as the staff and broader Weston C.I. community.”
“We are all very worried about him and, certainly, hoping for a full recovery,” she told reporters.
She also noted Weston C.I., was just the latest in a string of violent incidents while calling on governments to do more to address the root causes of youth violence.
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“There have been a number of serious incidences of youth violence in our city that have happened on TTC, in the community and in and around schools,” she said.
“There are commonalities, but we need to actually think about what is causing this … We know from speaking with our students, as well as working with our community partners, that substance abuse, homelessness, poverty, food, insecurity, and education are all areas that we need to address and that’s why we need to work together.”
She called on all levels of government to “urgently think about how we can provide greater supports for children and youth and their families.”
“We cannot solve this issue alone.”
Russell-Rawlins noted that coming out of the pandemic there are “mental health issues that both adults and young people are struggling with.”
“And until we can work together and put together a real system of supports for children and youth, then I’m really afraid that we are going to continue to see this. And that’s why I call on everyone, particularly the government, who has the ability to create these kinds of meaningful and sustainable partnerships.”
The TDSB will provide counselling supports to students, spokesperson Bird said.
“A lockdown can be a very scary time for some,” said Bird, adding staff kept students informed and calm during the process and while moving them to the other schools.
“This is exactly why we have lockdown drills every year, so that should something like this happen, while sad, our students and staff are prepared.”
Bird added that there are a number of cameras inside and outside the school, but he didn’t yet know if any captured the shooting. He said they will continue to help police with their investigation.
TDSB trustee Liban Hassan, who represents Ward 6, York South-Weston, said violence has been a “recurring theme” in recent months.
“I’ve been dealing with violence since I was elected,” he said.
Thursday’s shooting follows a rash of incidents, including two fatal shootings at TDSB schools last year.
In November, a recently-graduated student was shot dead outside Woburn Collegiate Institute; the chaos leading up to and immediately following the shooting was caught on video. The victim was 18-year-old Jefferson Peter Shardeley Guerrier, a graduate of Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute. A 17-year-old was charged with second-degree murder.
Just over a year ago on Valentine’s Day 2022, Grade 12 student Jahiem Robinson, 18, was fatally shot inside David and Mary Thomson Collegiate Institute as students were preparing to leave at the end of the school day. A 14-year-old boy was charged with first-degree murder.
With files from Ivy Mak and Ana Pereira
Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based crime reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags
Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74
Dhriti Gupta is a Toronto-based general assignment reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: email@example.com
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