The Toronto District School Board has voted to permanently end the practice of having police officers stationed in high schools.
There was loud applause when the result of a vote to scrap the School Resources Officer Program was announced on Wednesday night.
“We’re not saying we don’t want to have a relationship with the police, but we just won’t want armed police officers in our school every day,” school board chairwoman Robin Pilkey told reporters after the vote.
Toronto school district staff recommended removing officers from schools after a survey of students, staff and parents found that the police presence left some teens feeling intimidated or uncomfortable.
The program, which was suspended at the start of the school year, saw police officers stationed at 45 high schools in the district to try to improve safety and perceptions of police.
It began in 2008 after 15-year-old Jordan Manners was shot and killed at C. W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute.
A majority of the students surveyed for the school district report said that having an officer in school made them feel safer, but the more than 2,000 students who said they felt uncomfortable with a police presence was enough to justify the decision, Pilkey said.
“We have to reflect that two-thousand students are a significant number of students to not listen to,” said Pilkey.
However, a handful of trustees opposed ending the program, with one complaining that the decision is being made based on surveys rather than hard facts about whether the program has been a success or failure.
“It’s very unsatisfactory for us to make a decision as important as this without data, we have opinion but not data,” Gerri Gershon told the board meeting, adding that the school district should not walk away from improving relations between police and students.
“This is a horrible pun, but I think this is a big cop out,” she said.
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack echoed those sentiments.
“Disappointed in TDSB decision tonight, a huge step backwards for students, our members and the community,” he said in a tweet. “We need to build bridges, not tear them down.”
With files from News Staff