News / Toronto

TDSB votes to suspend program that puts armed police in Toronto schools

The motion was brought to the floor of the Toronto District School Board meeting by trustees and was passed effective before the start of school next week.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders listens to one of 79 deputations discussing SROs - police officers stationed in certain schools in June 2017.

Justin Greaves / Torstar News Services

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders listens to one of 79 deputations discussing SROs - police officers stationed in certain schools in June 2017.

The Toronto District School Board has voted in favour of temporarily removing police officers from secondary schools as part of the contentious Student Resource Officer program.

The SRO program was implemented following the death of Jordan Manners in 2007 after he was shot on school grounds.

“It was not a unanimous vote,” said Robin Pilkey, TDSB Chair of the Board. “There was quite a bit of debate whether this would be an appropriate action. Eventually at the end of the discussion, trustees decided they would suspend the program until the completion of the review in November.”

The program will be reviewed by TDSB executives. The call to vote on a suspension was not included within the Aug. 30 agenda and was instead brought to the floor by trustees after the motion to review was voted upon.

“It was felt that the presence of SROs during the review when we were asking people to talk about them might be intimidating and create a potential bias,” said Pilkey.

Activist and journalist Desmond Cole, who has been outspoken about the harms of the SRO program, tweeted that the suspension was “a huge victory.”

An independent academic study of the uniformed and armed officer presence within 75 Toronto high schools has never been done in the nearly decade-old program.

Toronto activist Desmond Cole appears before the Police Service Board to discuss the funding of School Resource Officers (SRO) in local schools. Cole called the TDSB's motion 'a huge victory'.

Toronto Star/Rick Madonik

Toronto activist Desmond Cole appears before the Police Service Board to discuss the funding of School Resource Officers (SRO) in local schools. Cole called the TDSB's motion 'a huge victory'.

The program was almost suspended this past May following a Toronto police board meeting where teachers and school workers addressed the negative impacts of police presence in schools, such as racialized students feeling harassed, undocumented students being asked for citizenship status and situations becoming unnecessarily criminalized.

TDSB staff members will report their findings from the review during November meetings.

A separate academic review, paid for by a “Special Fund” of the Toronto Police Board, is being conducted by Ryerson University, to be completed in June 2018.

With files by Wendy Gillis

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