Members of Black Lives Matter Toronto as well as several community organizations are calling the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) vote to scrap the School Resources Officer (SRO) Program a “victory.”
During a news conference held outside Toronto police headquarters Thursday morning representatives from several organizations weighed in, saying it was the right move.
Butterfly Gopaul with Jane and Finch Action Against Poverty said Wednesday night’s decision was a decade in the making.
“Jane and Finch took to the streets 10 years ago and asked the community at that time, what did we want in our schools? And did we want cops in our schools? And it was overwhelmingly ‘no’,” she said.
Mayor John Tory has been vocal about his preference for SROs to stay in schools, pending a review by Ryerson University.
“The reaction of John Tory has been extremely disappointing,” said Leroi Newbold, a TDSB teacher and a member of Black Lives Matter Toronto. “He has pushed for this program to continue despite the voices of the most marginalized in our community saying this program is hurting our youth and creating fear in our community,” she added.
While a majority of the students surveyed for the school district report said that having an officer in school made them feel safer, more than 2,000 students said they felt uncomfortable with a police presence. TDSB chair Robin Pilkey told reporters after the vote that this was enough to justify the decision.
“I have talked to many youth who talk about feeling unsafe in school,” said Phillip Morgan with the group Education Not Incarceration. “They’ve had interactions with SROs in the hallways where they’ve been stopped for no reason, so they feel targeted, they feel profiled, and this just pushes them out of the education system.”
The program was put in place in 2008, after the death of 15-year-old Jordan Manners. The teen was fatally wounded inside CW Jeffreys Collegiate in the Keele Street and Finch Avenue area.