Protests by groups like Black Lives Matter in the wake of the George Floyd killing at the hands of a Minnesota police officer helped lead numerous school boards to remove police from schools. Register file photo by Michael Swan

London board reintroduces police in schools

  • February 8, 2024

The London District Catholic School Board is reintroducing a revamped school resource officer (SRO) program in its schools. 

The new program will coordinate with local police services to pilot a new approach for in-school officers for non-emergency situations. 

Prior police presence in London’s Catholic schools had been routine, with the school resource officer program going back to 2008. The program was put on hold after a review conducted following the 2020 George Floyd incident when a police officer was charged and convicted in the killing of the Black man in Minnesota.

London was one of numerous boards that had SRO programs in their schools, but Floyd’s death — which launched continent-wide protests against police brutality and bred the Defund the Police movement — led to many boards, including the Catholic and public boards in Toronto — to remove officers from schools.

As recently as last September, calls for the indefinite absence of police in schools were being made both in London and across the country. Andrea Vasquez Jimenez, the director and principal consultant of Policing-Free Schools, cited London’s SRO program as a “human rights violation” and condemned a potential “reformist approach” of reintroduction.

Now, after four years, the London board has officially decided to revamp its SRO program to operate from a more equitable lens. 

A three-phase plan for the reimplementation of SROs has been put in place with input from leaders of both the London Catholic board and Thames Valley District School Board. Police services of Elgin, Middlesex, Oxford and London were also consulted, as well as local leaders from the Indigenous, Black and minority communities. 

Roberta Gibson, assistant superintendent for wellbeing, said the board is taking the appropriate measures to ensure input and feedback is inclusive and representative of multiple voices. 

“We’re also getting feedback from all of our stakeholders, which was a big part of our Youth Advisory Council,” Gibson said. “It is really important to note that this program was made in collaboration with all of those people and communities that are affected. The student voice is important in the process and we are honouring that student voice as we move forward.” 

The next step will see the board work with London Police Services in choosing a secondary school to be used for an initial assessment. From there, the elementary schools that would normally feed into the selected high school would follow suit in what Gibson refers to as a “slow but important” process of reintroduction that emphasizes continual development and evaluation.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done through the police services and through our school staff that ensures that we do this right,” Gibson said. “There will also be a committee at each school that’s comprised of school staff, students and parents, guardians or caregivers that will help us determine those next steps as we continue to evaluate.” 

The first step for SROs once brought back into school is to develop a shared sense of community through participation in community outreach events. Further on, the board is hoping to introduce classroom opportunities that involve the on-site officers.

“Being able to have our existing curriculum while using the expertise of a police force that will support it will be an important piece going forward,” Gibson said. 

It’s important to note that school resource officers are not being introduced to monitor student activity or patrol the halls as they are for non-emergency situations.  

With the initiative still in its infancy, there is no specific timeline for when SROs will roll out into classrooms.  

A London Police Services spokesperson said police are waiting until plans are officially in place before speaking on the matter. 

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