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School boards petitioned to bring police officers back to schools

School resource officers and police-led programming cancelled last year by Simcoe County's public and Catholic boards
2019-05-03-new DARE program
Special Const. Karen Markus delivers a South Simcoe Police program to a Grade 5 class at Cookstown Public School in February 2019. Photo courtesy of South Simcoe Police Service

The Town of Collingwood is joining a chorus of voices across Simcoe County calling on local school boards to bring back the school resource officer program.

During their regular meeting of council on Feb. 21, Collingwood councillors voted unanimously in favour of sending a letter in support of continuing the school resource officer program to all Simcoe County school boards, the County of Simcoe and all member municipalities, Simcoe County MPPs, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and Solicitor General Michael Kerzner.

“We want to offer our support,” said Deputy Mayor Tim Fryer. “Policing is provided to Collingwood by council and is paid for through land taxes.”

“The school resource officer is a contract enhancement, paid for by taxes, at about $190,000 per year,” he said.

Wasaga Beach, Bradford West-Gwillimbury and Adjala-Tosorontio have sent letters to the same effect in recent months, as has County of Simcoe council.

School resource officers and police-led programming like the OPP KIDS program were cancelled by both the public and Catholic school boards in the fall of 2022. Trustees at the Simcoe County District School Board were informed during their meeting on April 12, 2023 and trustees at the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board were informed at their meeting on April 17.

“It’s conflict resolution 101: the way to bring people together is not to build barriers, but to get together and address them in a respectful way,” said Coun. Christopher Baines during Wednesday’s meeting. “That is encouraged and facilitated through community officers being in the schools.”

In Collingwood, Hope Chapel near Collingwood Collegiate Institute and Our Lady of the Bay Catholic High School stepped in to fill the void when officers were told they were no longer permitted on school property except by invitation. Pastor Jane Peck offers space at the chapel for students to visit during their lunch break daily. Collingwood OPP school resource officer Christine Dineen attends the chapel on Wednesdays to offer assistance to any students who may want to talk.

“Our school resource officer is an exemplary individual who the kids enjoy meeting with and has done great work by being a trusted and valuable part of those high school communities,” said Mayor Yvonne Hamlin.

Coun. Deb Doherty asked that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario also be copied on the letter, which was passed unanimously by councillors through an amendment.

“We are not the only municipality experiencing this issue,” she said.


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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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