Thames Valley launches review of School Resource Officers

Posted On Wednesday October 14, 2020

 

Thames Valley will launch an extensive review of the School Resource Officer (SRO) program as part of the Board’s ongoing examination of practices that may result in barriers to equity and inclusion and perpetuate systemic inequalities.

This trauma-informed review will allow an important opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of ways in which the presence of SROs may trigger anxieties among Black, Indigenous and persons of colour.

“This process will allow us to engage with the community and together find a path toward reconciling past systemic injustices,” said Education Director Mark Fisher. 

The review will be led by The Centre for Organizational Effectiveness and involve the active support and collaboration of the London District Catholic School Board, London Police Services, St. Thomas Police Services, OPP (West Division), Woodstock Police Services and Strathroy-Caradoc Police Services. 

The Centre’s founder, Maria Sanchez-Keane, said the review will allow for crucial conversations and deep learning that “at times, can be delicate, charged and difficult. But we know that the best outcomes are achieved when those with lived experience are co-creating with us.”  

The review will include extensive consultations with school communities and probe the feelings and experiences of students and their relationship with the SRO program. 

SROs have been a presence in Thames Valley schools for many years, focusing on education, prevention and intervention. In secondary schools, SROs visit classrooms and engage students in a range of topics such as social media, dating and relationships, and drinking and driving. They interact with students, provide mentoring and help connect students with community agencies resources. In elementary schools, officers often provide a child’s first experience with a police officer, paving the way for building trust and mutual respect.

On June 23, 2020, following protests against systemic racism against Black and Indigenous people, Trustees passed a motion to “engage in extensive consultation with students, staff, community members, trustees and parents/guardians regarding the School Resource Officers (SROs) program.”

As part of ongoing efforts to eliminate systemic racism, Thames Valley has introduced significant changes in its hiring and promotions practices. Two Thames Valley Superintendents have also been assigned to the dedicated portfolios of Equity and Indigenous Education, respectively.

“Thames Valley is committed to making the necessary changes to attitudes and practices in our system that enable racism, discrimination and bias,” said Director Fisher. “We can and must do better.” 

“The review of SROs is one more step toward creating welcoming and inclusive schools where all students feel respected, safe and engaged in learning,” said Director Fisher.

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