Peel Regional Police says they are pausing their School Resource Officer (SRO) program to consult with community members.
“The pause is intended to create meaningful dialogue with diverse stakeholders and to consult with community members, around the efficacy of such programming,” the police service said in a news release Tuesday.
The program, which saw police officers in the region’s schools for over 20 years, was originally created to address complaints occurring on school property, the news release said. All elementary and intermediate schools were assigned an officer and each officer was assigned to three or four schools. High schools have one officer assigned to each school.
“The needs of the community and school environments have changed and advanced to a level where the service delivery requires a vital review of the program and a complete overhaul of the system that oversees the SRO program,” said police chief Nishan Duraiappah.
Duraiappah said the consultation process will begin this summer and will produce a report by the winter.
“This will take thoughtful planning with as many stakeholders and partners as possible, including but not limited to, Black Community Action Network of Peel (BCAN), MOYO Community Health Services, school board staff, students, families, academics and advocates to collectively determine the next steps for PRP,” he said.
Both the Peel District School Board (PDSB) and Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) said in a news release they supported the decision.
“We have heard from members of our school communities, in particular those who identify as Black and Indigenous, that they do not feel safe when SRO’s and other police officers are present in Peel schools,” said PDSB interim director of education Jaspal Gill. “PRP’s action to pause the SRO program is necessary.”
“The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board fully supports a fulsome review of the SRO program,” says DPCDSB director of education Marianne Mazzorato. “We have been assured that authentic stakeholder consultation will be a key component of this review and we are pleased that all voices will have the opportunity to provide feedback.”
PDSB supervisor Bruce Rodrigues said their board will consult with students, staff and families once the PRP produces a new “model for youth engagement.”
He said that if it’s determined after the consultation that the new model doesn’t meet the board’s needs, they will not move ahead.