The Thames Valley District school board (TVDSB) may soon be hitting the pause button on a longstanding program that sees police officers in its schools.
A report going to TVDSB trustees on Tuesday recommends halting the School Resource Officer program for at least one year so it can be reviewed further. If passed, police officers would be removed from the board’s 161 elementary and high schools.
The recommendation was made after a year-long community-based review that sought feedback from parents and students.
“While the review found value in the program, it’s also clear that presence of school resource officers can be triggering and make it hard for some students to be at school,” Thames Valley Director of Education Mark Fisher said in a statement. “It is clear that changes must be made to the program and the report recommends community members and police continue to work together with us to determine whether the concerns raised can be rectified so that the program can resume.”
In June of 2020, the London Black Lives Matter group demanded the board end the program. In response, the board launched an extensive trauma-informed review, which included School Resource Officers, in October of that year. Input was collected from students in Grades 6 to 12 and parents and guardians, and graduates from both the Thames Valley and London District Catholic school boards.
Feedback indicated having uniformed police officers in schools had “negative impacts for some students” – particularly Indigenous, Black, and youths of colour.
The group that oversaw the review, made up of representatives from both school boards, local police departments, and leaders from Black and Indigenous communities, unanimously endorsed the program pause.
“Many of our young people have been mistreated. We heard this in the feedback. That their trauma is real,” said N’Amerind Friendship Centre Executive Director Al Day, who was a member of the review group.”I support the pause in the student resource officer program and the work of creating together, led by the voices of Indigenous, Black, and youth of colour, a new, better way of having youth and police interact.”
The school resource officer program was designed to provide positive support for school communities through public safety education, relationship building, and reduction in school or crime related incidents such as bullying and drug-use.
“We need to listen to the voices of those who have been negatively impacted by police, particularly young people from BIPOC communities,” said London police Chief Steve Williams. “We believe that by working together, we can create better ways to serve our school communities which is vital for improved relationships moving forward.”
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