Time to rethink school resource officer position

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Summerside city council needs to rethink its position of putting a school resource officer (SRO) in Three Oaks Senior High School.

The idea was brought to the floor by Councillor Tina Mundy, chairwoman of the police services committee, last year, based on the success a similar program had at Colonel Gray High School in Charlottetown.

The issue was reviewed by city management and the police chief, and last month, council opted not to fund the position.

The reasons given by some councillors were a lack of available police officers to free a member up to take on the program and that the city had no money to bring another person on the payroll to take on the program.

Council opted to go the political pressure route. They planned to meet with the P.E.I. Federation of Municipalities for support and then approach the province for funding.

Justice Minister Janice Sherry put an end to that plan of attack earlier this week when she said the province doesn’t have the money to fund the position.

With that option now gone and the city’s reluctance to take on the program, what happens to the school resource officer proposal?

One of the arguments made by the police chief and some members of council against taking on the position was that no one from either the school or school board has requested the service.

Three Oaks principal Nicole Haire is supportive of the plan.

"My main concern is that people realize that we have a very safe, inclusive school," she said after Mundy brought the proposal to council. "However, I really feel that the issues that happen in the schools are part and parcel of what's happening in society and the kids are bringing their lives with them to school each day."

Haire said teachers oftentimes find themselves involved in activities that take away from their primary responsibility - teaching.

She said she sees a partnership with the city as a worthwhile endeavour.

That should be enough for city council to make the right move and get behind the student resource officer position.

The money argument is a weak one at best. The money can be found.

In the 2013 municipal budget, the city gave away $882,250 under grants and donations to a variety of events and organizations. Review some of those and eliminate or pare back some of these contributions to secure the dollars necessary for the school resource officer.

It comes down to what price does the city put on ensuring the students have a safe and healthy learning environment?

Organizations: Colonel Gray High School, P.E.I. Federation of Municipalities

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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