York Region District School Board to suspend programs that place uniformed police in schools

The York Region District School Board has decided to suspend two controversial programs that place uniformed police officers in its public schools.

The board said it will review the programs, known as the School Resource Officer and Youth Education Officer programs, to assess their impact on the well-being of students and learning environments. Both programs involve York Regional Police.

In a news release last week, the board said its decision to pause the programs is in keeping with its Director’s Action Plan and its recently released Dismantling Anti-Black Racism Strategy.

The board’s education director Louise Sirisko said both the board and police have decided “this is an important time” to review their partnership to ensure students feel “safe, welcome and supported.”

“We look forward to fulsome discussions in regards to the role police play within schools and in partnership with our Board,” she said in the release.

York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween said the service will continue to engage with young people through community youth forums and it will promote its Values, Influences and Peers program on such platforms as YouTube.

“We will increase social media events, create podcasts and generally offer more online opportunities for officers to engage youth,” MacSween said in the release.

“We continue to connect with young people at places like Jericho Youth, Children’s Aid Societies, 360kids, Clarico Place and on Georgina Island. We also intend to augment our summer camp programs to offer ones specifically geared to teens.”

Peel Regional Police ended a similar program in November 2020 after pausing and reviewing it.

And in November 2017, the Toronto District School Board voted to end its school resource officer program, a decision that was applauded by community groups.

That move followed a board staff report that recommended the program be eliminated because it caused some students to feel uncomfortable and even intimidated.

The York Region District School Board is the third largest school district in Ontario with more than 128,000 students in 180 elementary schools and 33 secondary schools.