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High times at Appleby College: inside a bitter legal dispute over discipline at the posh private school

When the prestigious private school expelled a 12th grader named Gautam Setia for lighting a bong in his dorm on the night before finals, his parents launched a lawsuit. They believe he was cheated out of his diploma—and his future

Hight times at Appleby College

Gautam Setia’s parents, Nicky and Devinder, believe Appleby is responsible for their son’s depression (Image: Joanne Ratajczak)

Devinder Setia is a tall, soft-spoken man who wears a black Sikh turban and silver-rimmed glasses. He arrived in Canada from Nagaland, India, 28 years ago and founded Re-Flex 2000, a small screen-printing company in the Halton Hills village of Hornby. One day, he was visited by a sprightly young Indian woman with thick, black hair who wanted to place an order. Within 20 minutes, Devinder proposed. The woman, whose name was Nicky, told him he was nuts, but they began a relationship. They bonded over their shared heritage and Devinder’s skillful Indian cooking. The couple was married a year later and, when Nicky was 31, had Gautam, their only child.

The Setias chose not to enforce a strict Sikh upbringing on their son. He’s allowed to cut and style his hair, instead of growing it out as Sikh custom dictates. They speak English at home, and Gautam was encouraged to make friends with Canadian kids from many backgrounds. Nicky expected her son to attend a top school. She wanted him to be taught in small classes, and she wanted a school where the parents were a part of the community. “Like one big family,” she says. Based on what she knew of its reputation, she set her sights on Appleby College in Oakville. She and Devinder started putting money away. At age six, Gautam attended MacLachlan College, a private Oakville school that’s known as a feeder for Appleby.

Expectations were high. “My mom’s goal was Harvard,” Gautam says. “She wanted me to be a doctor. Anything that starts with a P and ends with a D.”

In the two years prior to his Grade 7 acceptance at Appleby, the Setias sent him to the school’s summer camp. They bought a house around the corner from Appleby and attended the school’s annual open house together. Everything was going according to plan.

Life at Appleby suited Gautam. He worked hard and made close friends among his classmates. He participated in Model UN and played basketball, squash and rugby. He was easygoing and kind, with a mop of curly black hair and dark eyes he lightened with coloured contact lenses, just for fun. Though the Setias weren’t as wealthy as many Appleby families, Gautam never felt like he didn’t belong. Because he lived so close to school, he often went home for lunch, bringing friends with him.

All Appleby students are required to board in the school’s residences in their last year, in preparation for university life. Setia lived in Powell’s House, one of the boys’ residences, named after a teacher who died in World War I. He decorated his room with posters of flashy cars and enjoyed his first taste of freedom from his parents.

On June 14, 2010, the night before his last exam, he was in his room, studying. At 9:15, he took a break and, with Marc Bessey, a star Appleby hockey player, left the campus to meet another Appleby student who lived five minutes away. Driving around in the friend’s car, they each took a hit from Bessey’s bong. It wasn’t something Setia did often. But that night, with only one more exam to go, there was cause for celebration.

Hight times at Appleby College

(Image: Daniel Neuhaus)

The boys returned to school just after 10 p.m. and headed back to Bessey’s room. An hour later, Eugene Massi, the dorm supervisor and the school’s gym teacher, opened the door. “What’s going on here?” he asked. Massi looked from Setia to Bessey to the bong on the desk.

Busted.

Gautam filled with dread. He knew his parents would be furious.

What happened next would turn the Setias against the school they’d held in such high esteem. Their dispute would become a cautionary tale for all Ontario private schools—what is fair punishment when a student breaks the rules? And who decides: the school or the legal system?

Appleby College sits on the Lake Ontario waterfront and looks like a prep school ad come to life, with students in crested navy blazers, leather knapsacks slung across their backs. The school was founded by Sir Edmund Walker, a banker who would go on to be instrumental in the development of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the University of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum, and his son-in-law John Guest, a teacher at another prestigious private school, Upper Canada College. Guest had a vision for a boys’ school in the country, away from the city and its distractions. In early 1911, a friend invited Guest out to Oakville to see a plot of rolling farm field with a decrepit barn, and he persuaded Sir Edmund to put up $15,000. Soon after, Guest pitched a tent on the grounds to oversee the construction. That September, Appleby opened for business.

In 1991, the school became co-ed. It’s now divided into four houses, Harry Potter–style, though assignment to Baillie, Walker, Colley and Powell’s Houses is largely based on gender. (There is no Sorting Hat.) The school bills itself as the creator of “leaders of character.” The average class size is 16, students are given laptops, and interactive whiteboards are used in classrooms instead of chalkboards.

To earn Appleby’s prestigious diploma, students need more than the standard 30 credits. Appleby requires its students to complete 100 hours of volunteer service, compared to the provincial standard of 40 for public secondary schools. Students must also complete the bronze award of the Duke of Edinburgh program, an internationally recognized community service medal. They need a world language credit (in Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin or German) in Grade 9, along with French until the end of Grade 10. Last year, 99 per cent of Appleby’s graduates went on to university. (The remaining one per cent chose to take a gap year.)

It’s one of the most expensive private schools in the world, with tuition for the 2013–2014 year starting at $30,980 for Grade 7 and 8 students, $34,440 for Grade 9 and 10 students and $37,970 for Grade 11 students. Grade 12 at Appleby costs $51,460 for tuition and boarding, more expensive than UCC and just shy of the cost of a year of tuition and board at Harvard.

Those fees cover lunch in the cafeteria every day, medical care from the health centre at the school and annual trips to Appleby’s northern campus on private Rabbitnose Island in Temagami. They don’t include a one-time $5,000 enrolment charge, or the cost of textbooks, school uniforms and bus service. For Nicky and Devinder, the tuition was already more than they could afford. The grand total for Gautam’s six years was almost $220,000. In addition, the school was constantly fundraising and parents were expected to step up.

The Setias remember one of Appleby’s fundraising staff paying them a visit, telling them of families donating money for the top-notch new library the school had planned. “This one did half a million, the other one matched a half a million. This one did a million,” Nicky recalls. “They tried to make you feel guilty that way,” adds Devinder. Meanwhile, the Setias wrote a comparatively small cheque—$2,500 for each year he attended.

Appleby is one of the most expensive schools in the world. The grand total for Gautam’s six years was $220,000

Social currency among Appleby’s students is earned by excelling at everything. “Your friends are all getting good marks and you’re a big loser if you don’t,” says one former student. The school days are long. Class starts at 8 a.m. and the day finishes around 5:30, after a mandatory sport or club, like hockey, golf and swim teams or the philanthropy club. However, kids test the rules. At the Christmas carol service, the choir has shown up to chapel naked under their robes. Students surreptitiously shop on Net-A-Porter on their laptops during class. And ­gathering down by Lake Ontario has long been a popular pursuit for the school’s covert smokers and rebels. “The smokers have the best view at the school, down at the water,” says one former student, adding that the lake was a spot where pot-smokers usually gathered, too.

Appleby’s code of conduct, which is signed by new students and their parents, is strict. Among the more serious offences are dealing drugs, selling alcohol, committing extortion and possessing a weapon or explosive substance, all of which can result in expulsion. Smoking or lighting a match, candle, incense stick or lighter inside or within 10 metres of any campus building are also zero tolerance offences. The code stipulates that any student accused of such an infraction will be given the opportunity, with his or her parents, to meet with the head of the school and give the family’s side of the story.

The school’s administration admits that students are occasionally caught with pot on campus. (Dorm supervisors conduct random room checks.) Approximately 10 other students have been expelled from Appleby over the last five years, though the school won’t disclose their offences.

Punishments for mild misbehaviour at Appleby are called gatings, and range from writing lines to refereeing Saturday sports games to yard maintenance. Teachers warn students with urban legends: if you get gated, you’ll cut the grass with scissors; you’ll shovel the driveway with a spoon. Gautam says a teacher once approached him and said, “If you don’t shave, I’m going to pull out the duct tape.”

According to Gautam, during his six years at the school he was reprimanded only twice. Once, in Grade 10, he was approached off-campus, on his way home, by a teacher concerned with his rumpled uniform. He’d been playing a game of pick-up football with friends just before. And the second time, in Grade 12, when he boarded at the school, he and his roommate attended a wedding reception and broke curfew. They were discovered by an Appleby security guard off-campus and made to copy out the school’s code of conduct by hand for two hours as punishment. “It wasn’t like, oh, yeah, I hijacked a car and put it on the roof,” Gautam says. “I didn’t do any of that.”

The morning after being caught with the bong, Gautam woke up in the health centre. He’d been sent there, as per school protocol, for observation. Massi called Nicky that morning to tell her he’d caught her son “bonging.” She didn’t know what the term meant so he clarified—smoking dope. The likely punishment? Expulsion. Nicky and Devinder were stunned. They’d never caught their son smoking pot before. She cried. And then they got in the car and headed for Appleby.

Gautam wrote his final exam, fear of retribution hanging over his head. When he finished, he was summoned to see Theresa Blake, Appleby’s senior school director, and Michael Peirce, the head of school, and asked to explain his version of events. Massi had reported finding clothes stuffed under the dorm room door, a fan running in the window and curls of smoke within the bong. Gautam admitted he’d been getting high.

When Nicky and Devinder arrived at the school, Gautam took them to the school’s office. Peirce said he didn’t have time to speak with them, and would render his formal decision later that afternoon. In the meantime, he asked them to move their son out of his Appleby residence. Upon returning home, Nicky wrote a frantic email, pleading with Peirce to give them the opportunity to speak to him.

The dorm supervisor said he found clothes stuffed under the door, a fan running in the window and the two students sharing a bong

He reminded the Setias that the punishment for smoking a banned substance in residence was expulsion. “I have to remain consistent in order to be fair to those who have made similar mistakes in the past while upholding the school’s expectations for the future,” he wrote. If the Setias withdrew Gautam, he continued, the school would grant him a provincial diploma but not an Appleby diploma. The school was turning what should have been an expulsion into a simple withdrawal. The Setias felt they had no choice: Gautam withdrew. (Appleby wouldn’t comment on Bessey’s punishment, and Bessey didn’t respond to my requests for an interview.)

The mood was grim at the Setia household. It was the first time Gautam had ever seen his father cry. “On the last day of school?” Nicky asked her son, taking in his pale face, dry lips and haggard expression. “That’s stupid!”

He responded: “Everybody’s doing it. I’m not alone.”

That evening, Nicky called the parents of her son’s classmates, informing them that the prom after-party she’d committed to hosting six months before had to be called off. She cancelled the tent, the caterer and the fancy toilets she’d rented to ensure her country home’s septic tank wouldn’t overflow.

The administration photoshopped Setia and Bessey out of the Appleby yearbook graduating class photos, as if to erase them from Appleby history altogether.

Private schools fear that, if the courts are allowed jurisdiction over disciplinary matters, it will open a Pandora’s box of options for litigious parents who feel mistreated

The school’s actions gnawed at the family, especially Nicky. She felt robbed of seeing her only son graduate. Nicky and Devinder hired a lawyer, Ronald Manes, of the Toronto firm Torkin Manes, and decided to sue the school for the official Appleby diploma and legal fees, nothing more. The school, in turn, retained Borden Ladner Gervais, the country’s largest law firm. The Superior Court judges hearing the Setias’ case were David Aston, Sandra Chapnik and Joan Lax.

In his affidavit, Gautam explained why he thought he was being treated unfairly by the school’s administration. He claimed two friends, in different instances, were caught with drug paraphernalia. One was found with an unlit pipe and suspended for five days. The other was busted by Massi, who noticed the smell of weed coming from a dorm room. Massi supposedly announced that he would return in 10 minutes, and he’d better not find any paraphernalia in the room when he did.

The court ruled in favour of the family and agreed that Appleby had no proof Gautam lit anything in the dorm—only that when Massi walked into the room, the bong still contained smoke. The school had also failed to follow its own rules by denying his parents a chance to state their case.

Because Peirce retired after the graduation ceremony in 2010, two years before the case was heard, the court decided it would be unfair to command the school to confer the diploma under a new administration. So, instead of ruling unilaterally and forcing Appleby to reverse its decision, the judges simply asked the school to rethink it.

Appleby refused and struck back: the administration appealed, arguing that the court didn’t have the authority to reinstate a student who’d been expelled by a private school because discipline is a contractual matter between the school and the family. The Ontario Court of Appeal will hear the case on August 20. The point of argument isn’t whether or not the school treated the family fairly. It’s whether the court has jurisdiction over disciplinary matters at Appleby at all.

The decision has implications for every private school in the province, and indeed for any privately incorporated business. A group of schools that could be affected by this case’s outcome—including UCC, Ridley, Havergal and Bishop Strachan—plans to intervene in the appeal. It’s represented by the lawyer Chris Matthews, who is a partner at the Toronto firm Aird and Berlis. Matthews will be allowed 15 minutes to bolster Appleby’s case.

The group’s perspective? Stay out of our business. If the courts have jurisdiction over the disciplinary ­matters of private schools, it will open a Pandora’s box of options for litigious parents who feel mistreated. Instead of accepting a school administration’s decisions about expulsions or gatings or even the grades on a report card, demanding parents could take the school to court to get what they want.

These are often wealthy, influential individuals who have spent a small fortune on their kids’ education—they’ll be highly motivated to get their way. On the flip side, the schools, already busy pleasing the members of their parents’ associations, will be reluctant to hand down serious punishments and risk spurring costly legal battles.

After Gautam’s departure from Appleby, he enrolled as a business administration student at Wilfrid Laurier University. He fell out of touch with many of his Appleby friends, including Bessey, whom he hasn’t spoken with since the incident. At Laurier, with the lawsuit underway, Gautam found it hard to connect with others. When he decided to do a summer semester to boost his grades, Nicky didn’t think anything was amiss.

But one day in June, during a visit home, he had a breakdown.

“Do you have any idea how depressed I’ve been?” he asked her, admitting he hadn’t attended many classes that year. He said he couldn’t stop thinking about his expulsion, his parents’ battle with Appleby and all the attention it had brought. The dailies had covered the legal proceedings and his friends knew about it—he was the kid who was suing his private school for a piece of paper. Nicky had never seen her son so upset, and realized that he’d been hiding from everyone, including them. He quit school and came home.

Gautam is now a handsome 21-year-old, with a short beard and his mother’s easy smile. He drives a black BMW, a gift from his parents. He splits his time between his parents’ house and Waterloo, where he recently began taking courses part-time at Conestoga College. When I met him, he was finely dressed in black slacks and a grey striped button-up shirt, with a silver ring on his index finger. He remains close to his parents; he squeezes his mother’s shoulder when he leaves the room. The fight against Appleby has bonded them as a family, Nicky says. She and Gautam enrolled in a weekend motivational course on leadership and self-esteem. Gautam says it was a blast, partly because their instructor was rapper Ludacris’s stepmom. His Facebook page lists his current occupation as self-employed and pursuing “personal growth and development.”

When I ask him what he spends his time doing now, he says he works for himself on an energy company start-up that’s partnered with Bell Canada. But he won’t tell me the name of the company, and ignores me twice when I ask where his office is. His ultimate goal? “Financial freedom before 24. And just kind of take it easy from there,” he says confidently. He continues: “Now my philosophy is, if I want to be taught something, that person has to be an expert. Which is something that most traditional schools don’t do. If I want to be a great mathematician, I want to learn from a great mathematician.” It’s hard to tell which came first, the expulsion or the bluster. The Setias admit that their son is on the defensive. “He’s not doing much. He’s trying to prove that he’s okay,” Nicky says. “We’re just being very patient right now.”

Nicky still thinks about what it would have been like to watch Gautam walk across the stage in his Appleby blazer, bagpipes playing and the lake shining in the distance, to receive his hard-earned diploma. If the appeal decision comes down in the Setias’ favour, it’s a distinction that he may yet receive. But for the family, it would be a tainted honour now. “You try to send your child to the best school,” Nicky says. “When that best becomes a nightmare, what do you do?”

As we talk, Nicky lays out shrimp, sushi and kebabs for everyone, but Gautam says he’s not hungry. “You look tired.” Nicky says. He leaves the house to drive into the city to meet a friend. Nicky, always looking out for her only son, packs food in a carton for him to eat later.

  • appleby

    this is great. pure entertainment. i can see the reality tv pilot now

  • disqus_HjOtctPuOO

    Another example of parents accepting & encouraging bad behavior. He broke the law smoking pot, not just school rules. Its not a good situation, but accept some responsibility!! hes depressed because HE broke a law & had consequences. I absolutely hope the Schools decision is upheld. Other kids who smoke & get charged by police have consequences too. This article should have more facts and less “poor family & son” talk because they spent so much money on the school. What next they’ll sue the university too because he’s not getting what they want? People need to take responsibility for their actions, especially our youth…if so many parents keep teaching their children they are above the law & rules we are going to have a very ugly society.

  • smally

    This is truly the saddest thing I have read in a little while. Do these parents have no concept of how their own behavior impacts their children? Their son has clearly broken both the law and his contract and rather than allow him to face the consequences so clearly stated and agreed upon, sue the school. Now their child is depressed and it appears they are treating this by delivering their a sign a BMW and the opportunity to squander the solid education he did get. Buck. Up. He has a diploma and a first class education. Get h some therapy and if he truly is depressed because of the parents’ law suits, drop them and realize how truly fortunate you are to be in this position in the first place!

  • Stephanie Hollis

    The kid’s a brat and his parents are delusional – simple as that.

    Your kid knowingly broke the rules (and the law) and there are consequences for his action. Suck it up.

  • Mrshakur

    Great story about a spoiled child.

  • Hluhluwe33

    Good for Appleby College! Among the great strengths of most independent schools are their requirement that students adhere to their established standards of conduct or face the consequences, their imposition of discipline and their expectation that students meet specified academic standards or complete their education elsewhere. This is another sad story of a spoiled brat who is not being held accountable for breach of the law and his school’s rules of conduct — and is instead rewarded with a luxury car! As for the Harvard thing … he and his parents would have known by his last exam date whether he had been accepted there. As for “financial freedom by age 24″, that was the illusion of many a failed entrepreneur. I hope Appleby College and the independent schools intervening in the appeal are successful.

  • Spread the Wealth

    Bad Judgment, Too Much Money and a Legal Case. Who would have guessed?

  • ah123abc

    I’d like a show of hands to see who among us have not done anything that would warrant discipline from a school. For crying out loud, it’s not like he was dealing drugs or smoking crack. Yes, the man was a bit pampered. But from what I read the things he has done – broke curfew to go to a wedding, hanging out with friends, even trying weed – do not seem to warrant destroying his future by expelling him right before graduation. And it seems the punishment has been arbitrary where some kids got less with similar offences (perhaps their parents donated more money?). The entire Appleby system just sounds like a money machine for rich people to turn their kids into elitists. But it doesn’t mean those who worked hard to earn this dream for their children should be meted out brutal harshness for things many, if not all, of us have done at that age.

  • CoolestMovies

    Are you HIGH? Rules are rules. I’m FOR the legalization of weed yet I think this elitist little snot and his elitist family paid a fair price. Shoulda been worse, frankly. And how typical of Toronto LIfe to take their side. (eye roll, please!) Rules are rules. If I wanna smoke dope, but I’m on YOUR property, and YOU have a RULE against smoking dope on your property, I will NOT smoke dope on your property. Here endeth the lesson. This horribly spoiled BRAT and his delusional family learned the hard way that there are consequences, regardless of whatever percentage of the country supports legalizing dope. If his parents are SOOOOOO supportive, why didn’t they just let him light up in their own home? Good GAAAWWWD why is it so hard for some people to figure these things out. Then again, why should they when they can just SUE and contact the left-wing media for a shoulder to cry on.

  • ah123abc

    Rules are rules, except when they are applied unequally or arbitrarily. Apparently other students with similar infractions were not expelled. I don’t support courts being able to dictate to schools so I am against their lawsuit. What should have happened is the school should have had an internal disciplinary hearing to show fairness and due process. Could they prove he smoked it? Sounds like what the dorm supervisor walked into was a lot of circumstantial evidence and a proverbial puff of smoke. Someone should be given a chance to defend themselves before punishment should be meted out. We live in a country that advocates for fairness in procedure. What Appleby did, regardless of the wealth of its students and their families, was patently unfair.

  • 712murdoch

    This story is heartbreaking for the young man and for his parents for sure!
    But if you and your parents sign a strict code of conducts why in the world would he do something as stupid as smoking a bong on your last day…..you got caught so accept the punishment! You’re not destitute!

  • Szymon

    Great job Appleby! Junior and his parents agreed to rules in the college – and now they complain that they have to face the consequences. They are just rich people used to everyone else just bending over backwards for their every whim.

    Btw. I am wondering how much they paid to Katherine Laidlaw for such biased article.
    “kid is a good boy… he never ever smoked anything… just this one time…”
    “and he comes from poor humble house….. had to travel to his 50k CAD per year school on a rented llama…”

    Kid messed up – and instead of facing consequences as a grown up he just ran back crying to his parents…. pathetic!

  • Hluhluwe33

    What we have read in this article is the family’s version of events.
    As always, there are two sides to every story and we have yet to hear Appleby College’s side. Regardless, the bottom line in this case is that these two young men appear to have broken the law.
    Transgressing the school’s rules is one thing, breaching the law of the land is quite another.

  • ah123abc

    Key word being “appear.” They were not given a fair hearing by the school, simply presumed guilty and expelled based on one side’s account. The point is an accused should be tried and offered a chance at defence.

  • Hluhluwe33

    An independent school is neither part of the justice system nor a court of law. And it definitely is not arm of some human rights commission. Most independent schools require parents and newly accepted students to review and agree, at the time of admission, to their codes of conduct in which penalties for transgression are spelled out clearly. Whether or not a “fair hearing” is in order is entirely at the discretion of the headmaster. The better independent schools have long waiting lists. They do not have to put up with students who violate a school’s code of conduct. “Fair hearings” may be required in the taxpayer-funded public school system. There is no reason a privately-funded independent school should invest time in a “fair hearing” when the school’s code of conduct has been transgressed and the more so when the law may also have been broken. We have not yet heard Appleby’s side of the story to which there may be much more than has yet been revealed.

  • black lock

    hey asshole should have gone to blacklock down the road for your white education. not the grade given school apple bee is.

  • Nic Prong

    Back in my day the kids at Appleby were doing far worse than smoking weed…the school needs a wake up call and so do these kids parents…their son is a self entitled dick. financial freedom at 24??? How about you pay your parents back for wasting their money on private school, university and a BMW. Dipshit

  • ah123abc

    So let me get this straight: you are defending a rich, elitist school to act in an absolute authoritarian manner against rich, elitist students? Are you defending one rich side against another, or the authoritariansm? You don’t need to have a government institution or tribunal to have a fair hearing. If someone was accused of a transgression and just fired without warnings or at least a chance to defend themselves, there could be a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal. To avoid courts being involved, and to provide fairness, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to wonder why Appleby didn’t offer a chance for the student to defend himself and question witnesses. And let’s not pretend “rules are rules” when students with similar infractions in the past were not expelled (perhaps parents who donated a lot more?). Besides, as an educational system, Appleby ought to conduct itself in a way that would at least approximate, at its best, how the real world would. University students would be given a hearing and a opportunity to defend allegations. Like you said, the law *may* have been broken. And since Appleby refused to hear the student’s side in a process designed to offer that chance, the only choice was to air this out in a court and public forum. So what you’re arguing against essentially was, in a big part, contributed by the school’s failure to have this put through a fair procedure. And if afterwards the student was found to have done what was alleged and a punishment considered by a panel to be expulsion, then that should be that.

    As an aside, can you or anyone honestly say you didn’t do anything that got you in a bit of trouble as a kid? #glasshouse

  • Joe

    I also went to Appleby, and didn’t get a diploma from them, albeit for different reasons. But, so what? If you think it’s bad because he got reprimanded for smoking pot, wait until he is in the job market and potential employers google this article and find out what a loser he is…perhaps his parental expectations were the root of the problem….

  • Hluhluwe33

    1. Your perception of independent schools as “rich ” and “elitist” is a widespread, but popular misconception. Many students in these schools are from families of modest means and able to attend thanks to scholarships and bursaries established by alumni. Many others are able to attend thanks to financial support from relatives.
    2. It is invariably the case that summary expulsion from an independent school is based upon the student’s behavioural history and, depending upon the nature and extent of that history, the student’s academic record may also be taken into consideration.
    3. Your claim that this particular student was treated unfairly is based entirely upon the parents’ opinion that other students who broke the College’s rules or the law were not expelled. That they were treated differently may have been related to their behavioural history at the College. Since we do not know the reasons they were treated differently, we do not know whether that treatment was fair or inequitable.
    4. The size of parents’ donations to independent schools’ foundations seldom have anything to do with whether students are to be expelled. Example: two students from a prominent GTA family that was a generous donor to their children’s independent school were summarily expelled for violations of the school’s code of conduct — not the law, just the school’s code of conduct.
    5. Yes, “rules are rules” in most independent schools and that is one of several reasons parents send their children, at significant cost, to those schools.
    6. If there is a law governing dismissal from private schools, Canada’s independent schools would appreciate knowing of it.

  • Appleby Graduate

    “Gautam is now a handsome 21-year-old, with a short beard and his mother’s easy smile……When I met him, he was finely dressed in black slacks and a grey striped button-up shirt, with a silver ring on his index finger. He remains close to his parents; he squeezes his mother’s shoulder when he leaves the room.”

    Shout out to the author Katherine for trying to make Gautam a son every mother would love. This guy made a mistake and he is using his parent’s guilt to make sure he gets a diploma from Appleby? I like how he doesnt answer the question on where his office is. This guy wants to be presented as a victim, but he is just playing it up. He should take this as a lesson in “personal growth and development”.

    Easy smile? LOL… Not hungry and looks tired, but drives into the city to meet a friend? LOL…..

  • Hluhluwe33

    1. Your perception of independent schools as “rich ” and “elitist” is a widespread, but popular misconception. Many students in these schools are from families of modest means and able to attend thanks to scholarships and bursaries established by alumni. Many others are able to attend thanks to financial support from relatives.
    2. It is invariably the case that summary expulsion from an independent school is based upon the student’s behavioural history and, depending upon the nature and extent of that history, the student’s academic record may also be taken into consideration.
    3. Your claim that this particular student was treated unfairly is based entirely upon the parents’ opinion that other students who broke the College’s rules or the law were not expelled. That they were treated differently may have been related to their behavioural history at the College. Since we do not know the reasons they were treated differently, we do not know whether that treatment was fair or inequitable.
    4. The size of parents’ donations to independent schools’ foundations seldom have anything to do with whether students are to be expelled. Example: two students from a prominent GTA family that was a generous donor to their children’s independent school were summarily expelled for violations of the school’s code of conduct — not the law, just the school’s code of conduct.
    5. Yes, “rules are rules” in most independent schools and that is one of several reasons parents send their children, at significant cost, to those schools.
    6. If there is a law governing dismissal from private schools, Canada’s independent schools would appreciate knowing of it.

  • ah123abc

    Fair enough. But you and I are both operating on assumptions, and this story has been splashed out in the public forum because it was forced into courts by circumstances. Like it or not, a student felt unfairly dismissed since he was presumably not given a chance to proceed through a hearing with an opportunity to confront a serious allegation. At the very least if there was some sort of procedure, we may likely not have gotten to this point with a court ruling and a journalistic piece deemed newsworthy enough. And you are missing the point: I am not disputing rules. I am disputing the lack of a chance to face accusations in fairness when so much is at stake. There are no laws codified that may govern such matters in private schools. But we live in a common law jurisdiction and this is precisely the reason why schools are appealing the court decision by the student’s family. Clearly a Superior Court panel of judges deemed it worthy enough based on the lack of evidence and the school’s failure to follow its own rules by allowing the family to state a case. So what we have here is arbitrary application of rules and a failure to follow rules by the school itself. So much for rules.

    Who here hasn’t done anything in their youth that warrants disciplining is free to cast the first stone.

  • wrdzofwzdm

    I wonder; if the parents had given more money to the school over the years would Gautam have received his diploma?

  • anonn

    The Town of Tokeville

  • Ross Murray

    He knew the rules and he was caught! The school is following policy. He still received his OSSD and graduated high school. He is lucky the police were not involved; he could possibly have a charge or two against him. The parents spent over $200 000 for an education and he has missed out on arguably the best lesson he will ever have. Now these helicopter parents are dragging it out in court and I feel are
    responsible for his ‘depression’.
    An Appleby diploma means SQUAT and carries no weight when students apply to universities. All universities consider when making admission decisions is your top 6 grade 12 u/m marks. Universities could care less if you bought credits for $400 from some private school in a Rexdale basement, paid $40000 tuition at some fancy private school or worked your butt off at a regular public school! If the parents are satisfied with the education he received over his six years at Appleby than that is great. “Isn’t it about the process not the product?” I guess not!
    The bigger issue here is the amount of drug use at this school! As a former teacher at the school, I know of students as young as 12-13 at parties with cocaine! Scary! In 2003, while I was teaching at Appleby, about 8 students were also expelled for drug use in the residence. You couldn’t pay me to put my kids in this school! My former and current students from regular public schools in the TDSB produce far superior work, are motivated and respectful and are not getting mom and dad to fight all their battles! I guess parents are willing to fork out over $40000 a year for their little angels to be guaranteed an 80% average.

  • Stu Dent

    I am a current alumni and former student of appleby college and believe that this whole ordeal is ridiculous. As a student, I saw a lot of my classmates and friends get caught doing the same or worse things and they were all able to remain Appleby students and graduate. One year, I was writing an exam when a student behind me was caught cheating (writing on his hands) which is grounds for an automatic expulsion. He had signed the exam stating that he would not cheat and if he were to do so, he understood that he would be expelled. Following his expulsion (or during the expulsion, I am not 100% certain of the timeline exactly) his family donated $1million to the new hockey arena renovations and the student who was cheating was allowed to return to school and graduate (he still had over a year left at the school, not just 1 night / exam left). The hypocrisy of this case is overwhelming. I had friends who were snorting lines in between classes get caught and barely reprimanded. I knew of people who hacked the assistant headmasters email and stole exams only get a few days suspensions. But then I also had friends who were “asked not to return” because they insulted and berated the son of a wealthy Appleby family who donated millions (and spent million more on tuition) to the school. If this students family paid the school a million bucks, nobody would ever have known. Appleby is the most corrupt place I have ever seen.

  • Steve

    So he could get an education like yours? It’s Blakelock and Appleby. You’re an idiot.

  • MkM

    money can’t buy happiness.

  • MFC

    maybe i’m missing something – but the article says that when he agreed to withdraw he got a provincial diploma – and still attended to university. funny that the article cites the lawsuit his parents started and the surrounding attention as one of the reasons for his depression. since the expulsion didn’t impact his university acceptance, would it not have made sense to just move on with life.

  • Tara

    I love that there was little attention paid to the fact that he smoked weed in a car! Appleby should have gotten the police involved! This kid got off easy, just like he’s had it easy in life. I wish I could have dropped out of university and still figured I would have ‘financial freedom by 24′. Easy to say when you have rich parents. Jesus.

  • Alex

    Honestly, It’s harmless. Everyone gets worked up because it involves families with money. Once you get over the fact of jealously, realize it’s a completely rational article. People with money are a traget because of haters – same reason why there are problems in this world. If everyone got over it and worried about themselves negativity and hating would minimize to a lower degree.

  • neuralobserver

    After having been in residence at university, clothes stuffed under the door, a fan in the window and a bong on the table most certainly means pot was being smoked in the room. The classic “I smoked outside (in my car) and wafted some smoke in” is a line that pot smokers used to get out of sticky situations with campus security.

  • kisse

    The issue must be “Are these Schools reasonably Fair in dishing out Major Punishments”,and Should we now demand” An Independant Multi-Ethnic Ombudsmen”,to appeal to instead of the expensive route that the parents have chosen.
    Having played this sinuous game,I feel some of the reactions fall into ” me thinketh you protest too..” category

  • kisse

    Bravo! Bravo!. well put.!
    Who says Democracy works,why even in Communism there are those who are more equal than the others (sic)!!!
    So like our politicians,” should we now go for Prorogue?
    Pointing fingers only exposes the other four fingers pointing at “You”…
    We need to Fix the Problem not the person….

  • $31069528

    If any of these high handed officials know, some males do not mature by 17 or 18 as my son. Space must be given and if they want these young men to be sooo uptight in their future then be rigid and full of you know what like in movie Scent of a Woman. These parents put too much value in outer things and thus the young man suffered. It sounds like he is still drifting. Parents need to insist he get a JOB or put him out on his own.

  • $31069528

    Thinking further, I think they expelled this student because the fanily were middle class :weren’t just highbrow enough!!!

  • $31069528

    No fair hearing? Teach young men that money buys justice!!! There is no way I would have put a son of mine in that valueless WASP snob station. Thank God I am middle class and have other priorities than the ALMIGHTY dollar.

  • Dn Frnn

    Trying to draw a hard and fast line with young adults isn’t going to work.

    Spoiled or not, he made a mistake. We’ve all made them.

  • Andrew

    Your article states the court date was Aug 20th. Do you have any info on the outcome of the hearings?

  • Erin

    Third Appleby student I have heard of dropping out of WLU. They always sell you on the number of students admitted to post secondary school, but how many of them actually finish their program? #notreadyfortherealworld

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  • deborah

    I must be in a different dimension – because this is absolutely ridiculous. I do not feel sorry for this family at all – to the commenter who says we all make mistakes – we do indeed all make mistakes, and part of the reason some of us don’t make as many mistakes, is because many of us fear the consequences. Has anyone thought about the arrogance of this young man? Of toking the evening before your last exam? You couldn’t wait one night to have your celebrations? You couldn’t have gone out for a quick ten minute walk before curfew to run a session if it was truly that important? This is a blatant disregard for rules, disregard for consequences. And the only thing this spoiled little brat is learning is that his parents will pay whatever buck to get him out of whatever trouble.

    I love how they try to paint this family as one that was “struggling” to keep up with the costs of Appleby for their child. No one forced you to chose Appleby. You obviously decided you could afford it or do whatever you needed to to afford it. I nearly fell of my chair at the “measly” $2500 donation. Really – you can throw away $2500 and still maintain that you’re financially struggling. YOU CAN BUY YOUR SON A BMW and in the same breath complain that appleby was sucking you dry? This is such a joke. And please, I know educated, cultured Sikh families – please don’t let this ridiculous family sway your opinion on the community.

 

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