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EDITORIAL (Nov. 2017): Student safety suffers as trustees cave

November 24th, 2017 · 1 Comment

Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustees are poised to accept a staff recommendation to permanently discontinue its 10-year relationship with the Toronto Police Service (TPS). Instituted after 15-year-old Jordan Manners was shot and killed in a stairwell at C. W. Jeffreys Collegiate Institute, the School Resource Officer (SRO) program was developed after a report on the incident recommended that more caring adults should be present in schools on a daily basis. Forty-five officers were deployed to Toronto high schools under the program, even though critics have correctly pointed out that the caring adults were never defined as uniformed police officers.

In June, a group led by Black Lives Matter presented a petition to the police board calling for the immediate cessation of the program. Suggesting that the program had created a “pipeline to prison” and that police were reporting students who were in Canada illegally, Black Lives Matter demanded that the program be investigated. The Toronto Police Services Board responded by asking Ryerson University to conduct an independent review, which is due in June 2018. Trustees, on the other hand, responded by rashly suspending the program in late August, pending a review that has now been completed.

Unfortunately that review was rushed, used a flawed methodology, skewed survey questions, and made conclusions that even if taken at face value, don’t make sense if the goal is to provide a safe environment for students. Incidentally, the board still hasn’t bothered to ask how many students have gone to prison or are facing deportation as a result of the program.

Intentionally light on facts, the review process included an anonymous survey of students that practically begged participants to agree that a police presence of police made them feel uncomfortable, intimidated, targeted, watched, and made schools feel unsafe. Despite such leading questions, Jim Spyropoulos, the TDSB’s executive superintendent of equity, engagement, and well-being, could only get 10 per cent of respondents to agree.

When asked if they felt uncomfortable attending school due to the SRO presence, only two per cent of total respondents agreed. Fifty-seven per cent, however, disagreed, with the rest reporting that they had no opinion.

(We note that the question should really have been how comfortable do you feel attending school with the SRO present, but will take the answer as read.)

As to parents, 67 per cent said they’d like the SRO program to continue. Only 26 parents said the police presence made their child feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or intimidated. Of the 1100 TDSB staff who completed the survey, 95 per cent agreed that police officers added value to their school, and that they were comfortable interacting with them.

There would seem to be overwhelming support among students, parents, and staff for having some police presence in schools. But for some reason Spyropoulos said that the board has “a clear duty to act” to “mitigate against the differentiated and potentially discriminatory impact of the SRO program”. Instead, he promotes a new police partnership “that honours the voices of ALL [Spropoulos’ emphasis] students”.

Clearly, the board isn’t interested in hearing what their main stakeholders are saying. Sources tell us that during the suspension period high school leaders have been calling the police’s non-emergency line to report a “unspecified disturbance” in the morning — just to get the police back in the schools.

If the trustees really care for their students, they should have the moral courage to stand up to special interest groups. It’s unfortunate that the TDSB could not have taken a more measured approach, one that places facts over political convenience.



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EDITORIAL: Don’t sacrifice safety for political gain (August 2017)

EDITORIAL: Thank you Mr. Asti (July 2017)

EDITORIAL: A watershed moment (June 2017)

EDITORIAL: Revoke U of T’s unchecked “licence to build” (May 2017)

EDITORIAL: Westbank’s positive precedent (April 2017)

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Tags: Annex · Editorial

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Collateral damage // Nov 24, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    […] EDITORIAL: Student safety suffers as trustees cave (November 2017) […]