27 Toronto schools to get armed police presence

Armed police officers will soon be patrolling 27 Toronto high schools.

Armed police officers will soon be patrolling 27 Toronto high schools.

It's part of what the Toronto District School Board calls a school resource officer initiative and is a result of last year's Falconer report on school violence. Following its release, the board said it would draft a plan to increase safety in schools.

Toronto lawyer Julian Falconer led a three-member school community safety advisory panel set up after the fatal shooting of Jordan Manners at C.W. Jefferys high school in May 2007.

Toronto police already visit local schools, but under the new plan, police would have a dedicated space within the schools.

"Our goal is to make our schools safe," said Toronto police Chief William Blair in a statement.

"We recognize this can only be accomplished if we develop and maintain a respectful and trusting relationship with all our partners. The School Resource Officers will take a proactive approach with our schools, to build healthy and trusting relationships. They will work with students to develop action plans and programs, aimed at reducing victimization, improving reporting and preventing crime and violence."

The police assigned to the schools will be "visible and active" according to the board. They will participate in school council as well as other school and community activities.

Eight Catholic schools will be part of the plan, as well as 19 public schools in all areas of the city.

Two public school trustees have said they don't want armed police in their schools, at least until after public consultations.

But TDSB director of education Gerry Connelly said she expects the uniformed officers to make a difference.

"SRO's are an additional program resource that will support a school environment that is safe and caring. We said we would make a difference and we are," she said in a news release.

The police could take up their new duties as early as next week.

The Falconer report made more than 100 recommendations, one involving the creation of a website on which students could file anonymous reports of violence.