News / Toronto

Brampton advocates urging removal of police from Peel Region schools

Toronto public schools terminated ‘school resource officers’ program last year.

Sara Singh, New Democratic Party candidate for Brampton Centre, attended a weekend community meeting concerning police in Peel Region schools.


Sara Singh, New Democratic Party candidate for Brampton Centre, attended a weekend community meeting concerning police in Peel Region schools.

Advocates are urging Peel Region to follow the Toronto District School Board’s decision to remove police officers from its schools, citing what they call intimidation faced by Black students.

Sixty officers, supervised by eight sergeants and four staff sergeants, are posted in Peel schools, a program that costs about $9 million per year, according to a report published in January by two Carleton University researchers.

It found that “school resource officers” program like the one in Peel, prevent property damage, violence and drug use. The two-year report said the program reduces crime in surrounding communities, with staff and students feeling more safe.

But a 2016 Peel Region District School Board report said that Black students feel marginalized and isolated in schools in part because of the presence of police officers on school grounds. It said the police are “quick” to judge students based on the colour of their skin and are unfairly blamed for misdemeanours like vandalism.

“The issue is that we have armed and uniformed police officers within our schools,” Andrea Vasquez Jimenez, co-chair of Latinx, Afro-Latin America Abya Yala Education Network, said at a community meeting Saturday in Brampton to discuss the issue.

“(School resource officers) are not educators. Classrooms are spaces for students and educators to feel welcomed, to feel that they can thrive, to not feel that they’re under surveillance.”

Habbiba Ahmed, a 21-year-old York University student, attended McCrimmon Middle School in Brampton, a place she said people from racialized communities were “branded” as “McCriminals.” The school had police posted on its grounds, a circumstance she said made her feel “watched and uncomfortable.”

Peel Region’s police website said the primary responsibility of the program is to strive to create a safe learning environment at secondary schools.

“This is achieved by forming positive partnerships with students and school administration,” the website said. “It is encouraged that officers use a proactive style of policing and interact with youth in a nonenforcement manner on a regular basis.”

In November, the Toronto District School Board voted to terminate the program, after community complaints that the presence of armed officers had adversely affected some of the city’s most vulnerable youth.

The TDSB decision added further momentum to the community in Peel, said Vasquez Jimenez.

“Community has been voicing their concerns for so many years . . . ,” she said. “Systemic issues needs systemic responses. We need classrooms that are caring, equitable and healthy for all of our students.

Sara Singh, New Democratic Party candidate of Brampton Centre, wants precincts to hire officers from diverse communities in the region.

“We have such a diverse population of racialized communities, predominately South Asian and Black African,” she said.

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