Peel police end school resource officer program, cite negative impact on students

·2 min read

MISSISSAUGA — Police in Peel Region have ended a program that placed uniformed officers in schools, saying the long-running initiative had a negative impact on parts of the student population.

The force that serves Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon had paused its school resource officer program in July. At the time, protests denouncing racism and police violence were being held across the United States and Canada.

Peel police said the pause in the program was "intended to create meaningful dialogue" and allow for consultations with community members.

"It was evident during the consultation phase that the current SRO program caused a negative impact on segments of our student population," it said.

"As a result, the first order of business was to dissolve the SRO program and acknowledge publicly that change was necessary."

The program, which largely served high schools, had not changed in more than 20 years, the force said, acknowledging "long-standing concerns about systemic racism and the disproportionately punitive effects" such initiatives can produce."

The Peel District School Board said it supported the end of the program.

"Peel Regional Police’s decision to dissolve the SRO program​ is a necessary change to disrupt systemic racism in our school communities," the board said.

"Collaboratively, with students, their families, trusted community partners and staff, we commit to creating learning spaces where all young people feel safe and respected."

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board said it actively participated in the consultation process.

"DPCDSB will continue to advocate in all manners to ensure environments that are safe, welcoming and inclusive for all students," it said in a statement.

Peel police said it will continue to work with the community on programming that engages students.

The development in Peel comes after the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board voted to end a similar program in June.

The Toronto District School Board, the country's largest public board, eliminated its program in 2017 after a report found some students felt uncomfortable or even intimidated by the presence of officers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2020.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press