A program that puts police officers inside Toronto’s public schools to protect students has been temporarily scrapped following complaints by Black Lives Matter and pro-immigration groups.
The School Resource Officers program has been in place since 2008. It was started in response to the 2007 fatal shooting of 15-year-old student Jordan Manners, the first death in a Toronto school.
On Wednesday night, trustees with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) voted to temporarily suspend the program following months campaigning by a local chapter of Black Lives Matter and other left-leaning groups.
The program will be halted at least until November as it is reviewed and assessed. According to TDSB chair Robin Pilkey, officers had to be removed from schools while the review is underway to ensure no one is intimidated by their presence.
Among the most vocal opponents of the program is a local chapter of Black Lives Matter, which wants to see it scrapped to combat perceived anti-black racism in education. The group hailed the decision to suspend the plan as “an important step forward,” but warned it was not a “full victory” yet.
“Community action works!” wrote official Toronto Black Lives Matter Facebook page. “While this is not a full victory, this is an important step forward. After years of activism from groups like Education Not Incarceration (ENI), and the Latinx, Afro-Latin-America, Abya Yala Education Network (LAEN), the TDSB has undertaken a thorough review of the program to happen throughout the fall.”
The activists then criticized the police for conducting their own review of the program, saying “We remain skeptical of any instance in which cops are reviewing other cops.”
Not everyone, however, was against police in schools. Ethan Thompson, a Northern Secondary School student, claimed the officer in his school also taught students about the law and was just “a helpful, nice guy in our school.”
“I personally liked him. He wasn’t a police officer to us. He came into our class and taught us about law and kind of gave us an inside scoop on his take. It wasn’t really a police officer figure,” said Thompson, according to CBC. “It was just a helpful, nice guy in our school.”