Ottawa schools: Police officer forbidden from wearing uniform during school visit


An Ottawa school board policy that forbids visiting police officers from wearing their uniforms is causing a political firestorm, with Premier Doug Ford calling for it to be reversed.

President of the Ottawa Police Association Matthew Cox says an officer invited to speak to a Grade 1 class at an Ottawa-Carleton District School Board school about community helpers, “were told they are not allowed to attend in uniform or bring a police car when speaking with the students.”

“Could someone please explain why?” Cox said in an open letter to the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.

“Opportunities like this to educate the next generation youth and provide a positive interaction with police should be something you strive to achieve.”

Ford responded to the letter on Twitter, calling on the board to “immediately reverse this policy and show our heroes on the frontlines the respect they deserve.”

“This is a disturbing trend that needs to stop. Police officers are the people we call when we need help. They deserve so much better than this.”

In a statement, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board says the officer was asked not to wear a uniform or arrive in the school in a police vehicle“to align with Board Policy regarding police involvement in schools.”

The board released a letter from OCDSB director of education Michele Giroux to Cox, asking to arrange a meeting with the Ottawa Police Service to discuss police services in schools and “better understand the perspective of your members.”

“Today, you have raised a question about the impact of that motion on a parent who is also a police officer,” Giroux wrote. 

“The parent was warmly invited to attend and to share her work experience with the class, but asked to do so without the uniform and the police car. It was an effort to find a balance between the direction of the Board, student learning, parent engagement, and safety.  Your letter highlights the need for us to bring greater clarity to our practice.”

In June 2021, board trustees voted to end the School Resource Officer Program, which brought police officers into schools. The Ottawa Police Service moved to end the program in all Ottawa schools following the board’s decision.

Giroux’s letter went on, “There will be some who say that the easy path forward is to allow the parent to attend in uniform; others will maintain that uniforms and police cars are not essential to classroom learning about policing.”

“The Board decision remains in place until ‘further evaluation is complete.’  After careful consideration, I do not believe that any decision on this single incident will bring clarity to practice. That will only come as a result of more fulsome discussions about how the OPS and OCDSB can work together to support student learning, well-being, and safety. 

“These discussions will need to reflect on the concerns that the community raised during our police involvement in schools review, with an intentional commitment on the part of both parties to building new practices.”

Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari says she was part of a call between Cox and the OCDSB director of education on Wednesday to discuss the situation, adding she was hopeful the board would reverse their decision.

Giroux said she also plans to reach out to new Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs to discuss the relationship between the OCDSB and police and “the need for us to build a new partnership in schools.”

Cox tells the board he has spoken to a Kindergarten class in the past while wearing his uniform, “I can assure you that every child in that room loved seeing the police uniform and having the opportunity to sit in the police car.

“It is time for the schools to educate and not divide our community,” Cox writes. “I am hoping you will reverse your decision and realize that police are an important and valued member of the community.”

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