School boards argue uniformed officers ‘traumatizing’ to racialized, immigrant students. Photo credit: The Globe and Mail/Glenn Lowson
What is it with school boards these days? First, we had the bizarre episode of the Halton District School Board who couldn’t figure out what professional dress was for teachers after one insisted on wearing overwhelmingly large prosthetic breasts under tight sweaters to class.
And now, at a time when our front-line police officers are being killed at an alarming rate doing their job – that is, protecting us – two school boards have prohibited police officers from showing up in uniform for various career days with their kids. At least two school boards – the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and the Toronto District School Board – have also banned their School Resource Officer programs.
The reason given for this idiocy is that immigrant or refugee students and those from racialized groups could feel traumatized at the sight of a police officer in uniform. Perhaps the school boards in question could figure out that their role is education, not “woke” proselytizing and find ways to teach students that in this country, the police are there to protect us.
That is one reason the resource officer programs were created – to let students get to know, rather than fear police. It also gave police an opportunity to get to know students from that school’s community, surely a mechanism to strengthen relationships and understanding. And in some communities, that knowledge helped officers head off potential trouble rather than having to respond to a 911 call.
Are there issues with some officers? Of course there are, as in every other profession. Do some communities have a troubled relationship with police? That is also true. And many individuals are working hard to fix that. But banning police from our schools is not the answer.
In Toronto, where the resource officer program was very popular with a majority of parents and students, the cancellation has resulted in a growing number of alarming incidents of school violence including serious fights, attacks on teachers and weapons. But as often happens in such situations, the board ignored what was working for the majority and caved to a handful of activists.
And right on cue, in Ottawa, a new coalition of groups sprang up to pressure that board into keeping its policies of eliminating “all forms of policing” in their schools. Their goal – “a liberated education system free from coercion and violence.” Really? Ask a student or teacher who has been a victim of violence how liberated they feel.
Since last September alone, nine police officers have been killed running toward the danger, answering the call for help and losing their lives in the process. They and their families deserve our respect and thanks, not a “woke” slap in the face.
It is interesting to note that the Ottawa board has described its goal as having “an emergency-response-based relationship with police.” Oh, so you only want them around when you are in trouble?
The results of this kind of disrespect and calls for “defund the police” are now visible in too many U.S. cities – total lawlessness with fewer and fewer police officers willing to put their lives at risk for an ungrateful community.
Premier Doug Ford and his Education Minister, Stephen Lecce have both come out strongly against the school boards’ positions and they deserve credit for doing so.
The Minister then took it a step further, setting out his “clear expectations” in writing to all boards, that “these parents, and others who proudly wear uniforms as part of their occupations, are to be welcomed to attend career fairs, Bring Your Parent to School Day and other similar engagements…the uniform they wear is a representation of their duty and their commitment to putting their lives on the line in service to their community.”
Janet Ecker is a former Ontario Finance Minister, Minister of Education, Minister of Community and Social Services and Government House Leader in the governments of Premier Mike Harris and Premier Ernie Eves. After her political career, she served as the founding CEO of the Toronto Financial Services Alliance, a public-private partnership dedicated to building Toronto region into an international financial centre. She currently sits on a number of corporate and non-profit boards, agencies and advisory committees.
Ms. Ecker received the Order of Canada for her public service contributions and was recognized as one of the “Most Influential People in the World’s Financial Centres” by Financial Centres International. She also received a “Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award” from the Women’s Executive Network and the Richard Ivey School of Business, among other awards. She is also one of the founders of Equal Voice, a national, multi-partisan organization working to elect more women.