You have most likely read in the news that last week a majority of my colleagues and I voted in favour of ending the School Resource Officer (SRO) Program. I believe that we voted for equitable, safe, and nurturing school environments and not against police.
We made the decision following consultations with thousands of students, staff, parents and community members. I attended a few of these consultations both within and outside of our ward and heard many of the very personal heartfelt stories shared by students and parents who were negatively affected by the implementation of the program. While many students had a positive impression of the program, a number of students said the presence of an SRO made them feel uncomfortable, intimidated, and/or watched or targeted.
If “Diversity is Our Strength” and we are committed to enhancing equity for everyone within our communities, then that means we have a responsibility to listen to marginalized voices that often go unheard and make decisions that take into account the experiences of everyone, not just the majority.
It is important for you to know that the SRO program was not in all schools but in select, targeted schools. Out of 113 of our secondary schools, only 45 had SRO’s. Of those 45 schools, only a few had an officer allocated full-time. Many of the schools had officers part-time and in some cases even shared between 10 schools. In our ward, we have Rosedale Heights School of the Arts and Jarvis Collegiate Institute, both of which did not have an SRO.
While the SRO program has now ended at the TDSB, other programs and/or relationships that schools have with the Toronto Police Service remain in place. Before 2008 when the SRO program was implemented by the Chief of Police, we have always had a positive working relationship with the Toronto Police Service and will continue to foster those relationships. Police also continue to play an important role in our elementary schools from educating our children on safety such as cycling and walking to school.
As we move beyond this chapter, we continue to make the safety of all of our students a paramount priority. We also need to continue to push for additional funding for more caring, responsible adults in our schools who are trained experts in handling our student’s health and well-being such as hall monitors, social workers, educational assistants and other support staff.