Peel Regional Police to pull resource officers out of schools permanently
Police paused program last summer amid concerns it made students feel unsafe
Peel police say they have cancelled a program that puts uniformed officers in schools after pausing it over the summer for review — amid concerns it made Black, Indigenous and other racialized students feel unsafe.
The School Resource Officer (SRO) program was suspended in July. Peel Regional Police (PRP) then consulted with the public to decide how to proceed.
"It was evident during the consultation phase that the current SRO program caused a negative impact on segments of our student population," police said on Wednesday evening in a news release.
"As a result, the first order of business was to dissolve the SRO program and acknowledge publicly that change was necessary."
Under the program, which began 20 years ago, one uniformed officer was assigned to each high school in Brampton and Mississauga, while one officer was assigned to several elementary and middle schools. According to a 2018 independent university study, the program cost $9 million a year.
At the time Peel police announced the pause over the summer, the Peel District School Board said it was necessary to ensure students feel safe at school.
"We have heard from members of our school communities, in particular those who identify as Black and Indigenous, that they do not feel safe when SRO's and other police officers are present in Peel schools," said Jaspal Gill, who was interim director of education for the PDSB at the time.
The Peel Catholic District School Board also supported the suspension and the consultation process.
Peel police acknowledged on Wednesday that the program failed to assuage the concerns of those communities.
"While there was support for the SRO program, which is primarily dedicated to secondary schools, in many segments of the community, there are also long-standing concerns about systemic racism and the disproportionately punitive effects this type of traditional programming can produce," the release said.
"We are committed to action and working in partnership with the community to effect much-needed change. Based on recommendations made by those most negatively impacted by this programming, the SRO program no longer exists. Moving forward, PRP will continue to work with our community regarding student engagement programming."
In November 2017, the Toronto District School Board, which is the largest school board in Canada, voted to cancel its School Resource Officer program, a decision that was applauded by community groups.
That decision followed a board staff report that recommended the program be eliminated because it caused some students to feel uncomfortable and even intimidated.