By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent
Barrhaven’s Ottawa Carleton District School Board trustee is bringing forward a motion to see a return to police in schools.
Donna Blackburn, who represents Barrhaven/Knoxdale-Merivale, was the only trustee to vote against the dismantling of the board’s school resource officer (SRO) program with police, during a motion last year.
The controversial June 2021 vote came after reports of a strained relationship between police and some students and families. But now almost a year later, Blackburn says it’s time to revisit the idea, and believes she has support from her board colleagues.
“It’s become apparent that the current situation is not working. We need to do something to fix it, make it better,” she said. “My motion asks that the board authorize the Director of Education to basically renegotiate (and) renew our partnership with the Ottawa Police Service, and establish a standard of practice for our relationship.”
Blackburn stresses this is not a return to the former SRO program, but instead looking ahead at something new. She said principals are currently only able to get police involved if it’s a 911 situation.
In March of this year police were called to Longfields Davidson Heights High School after a student was stabbed and left with serious injuries. A few months before that, Longfields was among multiple schools in Ottawa to be faced with threats, leading police to investigate.
It’s scenarios like this Blackburn would like to see avoided. She believes a return to proactive work will ensure schools remain a safe environment for everyone.
“We want to engage in prevention,” said Blackburn, who has a background in social work. “A lot of people have talked about police versus social workers, to me it’s not one or the other; Social workers have a role in our system, but police have a role in our system too and police can do certain things that our awesome social workers cannot do.”
Blackburn hopes the motion will bring consistency to school principals when dealing with the police. She said any officers who are assigned to schools should have special training in working with youth, a program the Ottawa Police does have.