Seven Oaks School Division has partnered with the Winnipeg Police Service to host the School Resource Officer program since 2016. Our schools, our students and our community benefit from this partnership.This past year officers mediated conflict and facilitated restitution in 197 different situations. The result: not one student entered the court system. Disagreements were settled. Students who had broken the law faced a consequence in a timely manner and were able to own up to their behaviour, fix it and learn a valuable lesson without being criminalized.
It is the program’s priority to take a restitution approach any time a young person faces the possibility of criminal charges.
The SRO’s help the young person see the error of their ways and appreciate the consequences of their behaviour. They are given the opportunity to learn from their mistake and to fix it. By taking this approach the program keeps young people out of the justice system.
The presence of SRO’s in our school communities fosters mutual understanding and respect. They supervise school patrols, assist with traffic issues, find lost children, present to students on topics like online safety and attend school events.
Our SRO’s have helped us combat racism. In a recent survey our students told us that they are most concerned with the racism they experience online and through social media. Our SRO’s help us address this both through education and through investigation of concerning incidents. They have tools and expertise that our school staff simply do not.
There is no evidence that the SRO program pays greater attention to racialized or Indigenous students. SRO’s contact with diverse and Indigenous students is no greater than their representation in our student population.
This year the program had an active advisory committee that provided oversight and suggestions. Among its suggestions was an alternative uniform that would soften the image and presence of police in schools. That suggestion is under consideration by the Winnipeg Police Service.
The 2021-2022 school year was a challenge to us all. We look forward to the 2022-2023 school year and a return to a more normal operation. Thanks to our SRO’s for their work and for their patience and flexibility this past year.
Brian P. O’Leary