Officials at two of our area’s high schools located in troubled neighbourhoods say armed police officers are not necessary on their campuses.
More than two dozen Toronto schools have implemented the program, begun last month after a major report of violence on campuses, but none of them are in our area.
The Toronto police and the public and Catholic school boards partnered together to bring this initiative into effect.
Nadia Bello, Toronto District School Board trustee of Scarborough East, says she supports this initiative and there is one police officer stationed at Sir Robert Borden.
“However, he serves all five schools in Scarborough East. For me, it’s not a question of necessary or unnecessary. I believe our high schools are very safe and youth are, for the most part, responsible and aware of issues like violence, poverty and safety,” she says.
But Joel Wellington, a student at Pope John Paul II, says he thinks having a police officer in his school would be beneficial.
“It’s one of the biggest schools in Scarborough, so I’m tending to find that there isn’t as many yet, so it’d be a lot safer if there were police officers in school,” Wellington says.
These officers — referred to as school resource officers or SROs — are meant to work closely with students in order to build and encourage relationships with them to prevent crime and violence.
Bello says it’s important that Toronto police foster good relationships with a new generation of young people.
“When youth can see a police officer as a human being with a job to do instead of someone who is just out to get them, mutual respect can be formed,” she says.
SROs are to be permanent members of the school community and they will be designated their own office space.
They are also encouraged to become active members of the school by taking part in school activities.
Tom Lazarou, principal of Sir Oliver Mowat, says while he believes it is a positive initiative he doesn’t think it would be necessary at his school.
“We are the furthest east school in the system. I don’t think they would be using their resources wisely to put one in our school because you want to put it where other people can use the police officer too,” he says.
Lazarou adds the local community police officers are very good though.
“They’ll come to school just to speak to a student. They don’t come to the school to get a student into trouble. We call them here and they have those conversations so we try to prevent any trouble that might happen in the community,” he says.
Though Lazarou says police officers may not be needed for the area his school is situated in, he stands by the initiative as a whole.
“It’s okay for teenagers to speak to police officers when there are problems. So, if they can prevent something from happening, I think it’s great. It gives them more access to speak to a police officer in school, as opposed to going to their local police station to speak to them,” he says.
This initiative stemmed from the Falconer report on school violence. The report was released last year as a response to the murder of Jordan Manners at C.W. Jefferys.
“People come from all areas where there isn’t that much police present so I think if there’s police then, you know, I think it will make a difference,” Wellington says.