A former student at St. Robert Catholic high school is accusing the vice-principal of sexual assault.

The alleged incident happened last July against a 17-year-old student, police said.

The suspect, who was arrested Tuesday, appeared in court to face charges of sexual assault and sexual exploitation.

The school board sent a letter home to parents today explaining the allegations and urging them to “respect the privacy of the individuals involved in this situation, and not to engage in speculation.”

Board communications manager Sonia Gallo said the board “takes this matter very seriously,” and has dispatched support staff including counsellors and psychologists to the school to assist staff and students.

Gallo would not go into specifics about the allegations, citing privacy concerns.

Paul Paterson, who appeared in a Newmarket court Wednesday for a bail hearing, is on leave with pay, in line with board policy for employees.

None of the charges have been proven in court.