Overview of Policing in Ontario Schools: The Persistence of Discrimination

  • November 08, 2021
  • Adrianna Mills & Enniael Stair


Ontario’s Education Act requires that the Minister of Education establish policies and guidelines regarding the discipline of students. These policies include a call for school boards and police services to work together to endorse a progressive discipline model. The current relationship between police and schools in Ontario developed from an evolving idea of “safety.” In the 1990s and 2000s, education law was informed by an attitude of “zero tolerance.”[1] In this framework, Ontario passed the Safe Schools Act in 2000, which mandated that police be involved in particular situations at schools. However, Ontario and other provinces have increasingly recognized the detrimental impact that police presence in schools has on marginalized students.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission released a report in 2003 which concluded that these policies had a disproportionate impact on racial minority students, particularly Black male students, and students with disabilities. Youth interviewed confirmed that there was a widespread perception of “discrimination—direct and systemic” by police authorities. Ontario responded with a move towards a new “safe and accepting” approach to discipline, which acknowledged the multi-faceted reasons why an individual student may be facing disciplinary measures.[2] Under this approach, police were to support and implement schools’ violence-prevention policies and make schools safe places to learn and work.