Peel Regional Police announced they will be pausing their school resource officer program (SRO) across the Peel District School Board (PDSB) and Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board (DPCSB) in a statement issued July 28.
In the joint statement from police and both school boards, police said the program is on pause to “create meaningful dialogue with diverse stakeholders and to consult with community members, around the efficacy of such programming.”
The SRO program was started 20 years ago to “foster relationships with students, administration and staff, and to address complaints occurring on school board property,” according to the statement.
Peel police will start a consultation process this summer and plan on speaking with community stakeholders including the Black Community Action Network of Peel, Moyo Community Health Services and various school board staff, students, families and advocates.
A report on the findings from the community is scheduled to be released by winter 2020.
Both the PDSB and the DPCDSB support the police decision to review the program.
Earlier this year, the PDSB was under major scrutiny after a report found that management failed to address anti-Black racism.
The statement said that the consultation process will need to be equitable and just to come up with long-lasting improvements.
The decision to have police present in certain schools has always been a bit controversial. Many students say they feel safer having police presence, while some, notably blacks say they feel unsafe.
It remains to be seen if the feeling of safety that will be experienced by those students will now thrive in these police-free zones of learning.
In 2018, a 258-page analysis was done by two Carleton University professors and their phD students. This three-year research project on the value of having cops in schools showed that the Toronto District School Board’s decision to abruptly cancel its “School Resource Officer” program in 2017 was wrong.
Among its many findings, it found that of the ones who had been victimized, about 16 per cent were the greatest beneficiaries of the SRO program that expected to gain the most from the presence of police in the high schools.
Even with the SROs, the research found that bullying, particularly by gang members, particularly for kids on the way to and from school, is a real issue for many students in Peel Region. One can only imagine how scared some of those students might be if their schools didn’t have an SRO.
Perhaps an honest review of the decision to pause this program in Brampton and Mississauga schools may give school boards and responsible parents the chance to evaluate the program more objectively.