Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustees have voted to temporarily suspend the controversial police School Resource Officer (SRO) program while it undergoes a review.
Wednesday’s decision came after the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) voted unanimously last week to have Ryerson University researchers review the SRO program, with an interim report scheduled to be presented in January.
Multiple people who addressed the board at the meeting demanded it end the program entirely due to concerns over racial and anti-immigrant bias.
The TDSB voted in June to have board staff review the SRO program. A report on the consultation process for the staff review was presented at a board meeting on Wednesday night — that, in turn, prompted a motion calling for the suspension the same night.
WATCH: TDSB suspends police patrol program in schools. Mark Carcasole reports.
The TDSB motion said the SRO review “endeavours to ensure that all participants in the review are provided safe and secure settings where they will be comfortable sharing their experiences and opinions,” but that “the presence of SROs in schools potentially counters this aim, while the review is being conducted, and creates a potential bias.”
“The presence of SROs is potentially intimidating for the most marginalized students whose voices are essential to capture during the process,” the motion said.
Mayor John Tory told reporters Thursday that he was surprised about the board’s decision, especially since a review about the matter is currently underway.
“The school board has made its own decision about this and that’s fine. They’re entitled to do that,” Tory said.
“I just wish they had waited until the review was over so we would have a basis on which perhaps to improve the program and address some of the shortcomings. But we are where we are and the review will proceed, and we’ll see what the report says.”
The SRO program, which was first introduced in 2008, was designed to improve relations between students and police but critics argue it has done the opposite by marginalizing school communities.
Thirty officers were assigned to 30 Toronto high schools at the program’s inception, but it has since expanded to include 75 schools.
Groups such as Black Lives Matter and Education Not Incarceration have called for the program to be abolished.
WATCH: Suspension of School Resource Officer program not going over well with parents, students at TDSB school. Catherine McDonald reports.
Meanwhile, the TDSB will host community meetings to solicit feedback about the program. The meetings are scheduled for mid-September.
The TDSB staff report on the SRO program is expected to be reviewed by a board committee in October.
With files from David Shum and The Canadian Press
Full motion approved by the TDSB Wednesday night:
Whereas, the TDSB’s School Resource Officer (SRO) Review endeavours to ensure that all participants in the review are provided safe and secure settings where they will be comfortable sharing their experiences and opinions; and
Whereas, the presence of SROs in schools potentially counters this aim, while the review is being conducted, and creates a potential bias; and
Whereas, the presence of SROs is potentially intimidating for the most marginalized students whose voices are essential to capture during the process; and
Whereas, the Falconer report, “Roots of Youth Violence” recommended more caring adults in schools such as social workers, child and youth workers, hall monitors etc.;
Therefore, be it resolved:
(a) That for the duration of the review of the TDSB’s School Resource Officer Program, the program be suspended;
(b) That during the suspension period, that the Director work with superintendents and principals to address any needs that may arise.