Toronto Star

Sep. 27, 01:00 EDT

School absorbs news of charges

Two of its students arrested in stabbing

Betsy Powell
Toronto Star

The day got off to an unusual start at Scarborough's oldest high school, R.H. King Academy, when principal Gloria Baxter made an announcement about an incident 30-odd kilometres away in Mississauga.

The matter, she told students, was under police investigation. School officials were co-operating. Students would be kept informed.

Two R.H. King students stand charged with attempted murder and weapons offences after a taxi driver's throat was slashed Tuesday night. Police reports suggested the female teens, aged 16 and 17, were on "a mission to kill" someone. They were arrested in a wooded area in Mississauga's Birchwood Park after they were found trying to slash their wrists. The pair is to appear today in a Brampton court for a bail hearing.

Outside the school yesterday, several students interviewed by The Star said the accused pair kept to themselves. Most said their school, located at St. Clair Ave. E. and Kingston Rd., has a good reputation and that violent behaviour is rare.

"Compared to other schools, we don't get stuff like this," said Gillian Smoke, 18.

R.H. King is, in fact, different from many schools in the city. In 1989, faced with dwindling enrolment and possibly its closing, the school relaunched itself as an "academy," adopting uniforms and stressing academic rigor and discipline.

"We strive for academic excellence," reads the school's Web site. "We serve to meet the unique needs of each student. This three-fold mission is reflected in such areas as self-directed learning, a challenging curriculum, volunteerism, professionalism and the acquisition of technological and computer skills."

Today, about 1,400 students attend, almost double the number when R.H. King was still a collegiate. The school is so popular, in fact, a lottery has been held in the past to determine who gets to attend.

A Fraser Institute report card ranked R.H. King as one of the top publicly funded schools in Toronto.

Elizebeth Moyer, trustee for Scarborough Southwest, said the school has a reputation for attracting students "typically, and this is a great generalization here, who are more community focused."

"The goal at King is to develop future leaders, ... nice, well-rounded human beings that will do well in life because they've got a holistic education which includes community service, mentorship and leadership opportunities."

Moyer, like most of the students interviewed yesterday, figured this is an isolated case and not representative of the school or its students.

"This is an unfortunate circumstance and not a reflection on the school at all," she said, noting that, as a trustee, she oversees 31 schools.

The funding crunch, she said, has led to "things falling through the cracks, and unfortunately things that fall through the cracks are individual children."

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