OCDSB starts community consultations on police officers in schools

·2 min read
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board on Tuesday began community consultations on a two-decade-old program that pairs police officers with public schools.  (Danny Globerman/CBC - image credit)
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board on Tuesday began community consultations on a two-decade-old program that pairs police officers with public schools. (Danny Globerman/CBC - image credit)

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) today starts holding a series of consultations with students, parents and the general community about police involvement in schools, amid growing calls to end the presence of officers in schools.

The consultations include a review of the school resource officer role, which pairs police officers with public schools. There are growing concerns that police officers in schools can create stress and fear among students, especially in the Black and Indigenous communities.

Grace Ayoo, co-founder of Asilu Collective, one of the groups calling for an end to the program, said that for a lot of students, seeing police officers in school halls is a source of fear and trauma. "[Students have] talked about how it's kind of hard to learn in an environment where you're just fearful all the time," she said.

Ayoo said the program is something from the past, and wants it replaced with a different model that addresses the root problems students face, such as mental health, food insecurity, relationship hardship, trauma and substance abuse.

"I think addressing those root causes will kind of address the behaviours that are seen in students that are often responded to with police rather than a care model."

Deputy police Chief Steve Bell told Monday's police service board meeting that the program was initially designed with parents' input, and having officers in schools fulfils certain legal obligations.

"We're continuing to look and evaluate how we build and develop that model of when we're in the schools and what are the activities that were involved within those," said Ball.

Funding for officers redirected

The consultations stem from a proposal from OCDSB trustee Lyra Evans, who suggested removing officers from Ridgemont and Gloucester high schools and redirecting the money. That motion was voted down in a budget meeting after some parents disagreed with the idea. However, in October, trustees passed a motion mandating a review process.

OCDSB director of education Camille Williams Taylor hopes the consultations will strengthen the relationship between the board and parents, in efforts to create and build on support networks for students.

"I think it's really important that our racialized students, our Indigenous students and students who have experienced social vulnerabilities come forward and speak to us in this consultation process."

She said consultation processes can be broad and may lead to deeper discussions, so while the board aims to have a plan by the fall, more time may be needed.