Souris Regional High School. A new kindergarten-grade 12 school is planned for Souris.
Several years ago, a former officer in charge of the RCMP detachment in Souris had lamented the fact that realignment of personnel resulted in the transfer of a staffer from Eastern Kings to Queens County detachment. There was only so much money allotted by the province in the RCMP contract and it was determined that additional police resources were needed in the Charlottetown area.
At the time, the loss of the officer in Eastern Kings didn’t get a lot of attention except in the detachment, with town council and more importantly, in Souris Regional High School. That extra RCMP position had allowed the detachment to place an officer in Souris high on a part-time basis.
The former CO noted the significant positive impact of that officer on students. He said youths were committing some petty crime in the town and something had to be done.
The officer made regular visits to Souris high and soon developed a good relationship with students. Shortly afterwards, the petty crime plummeted and everybody was happy — until the position was lost soon afterwards.
So it comes as no surprise when Souris Mayor Dave MacDonald made a pitch this week for the return of a police officer to the local high school. It was Souris which had the first pilot project on P.E.I. which demonstrated the success of having an officer in the school.
A lot of recent attention has focused on Colonel Gray Senior High the past year or so where a city police officer has done a wonderful job working with students. The program has expanded into Charlottetown Rural this fall but both city schools will have access to an officer only for the first two months of this school year.
It all comes down to money and resources. The city has made the decision — rightly or wrongly — that it needs the officers elsewhere after early November. Summerside is also looking at placing a city officer in Three Oaks Senior High.
Persistent attempts by the city to get the province to commit funding have failed. The government and school board say there is no money for such a program. If there is help to for an officer at Colonel Gray, Rural or TOSH, then country schools would expect some help coming their way as well.
The success in Charlottetown has made Mayor MacDonald envious, as he feels rural P.E.I. should have the same benefits being enjoyed in the city. MacDonald asks, “If we’re going to see a police officer in city high schools, doesn’t rural P.E.I. deserve the same treatment?”
MacDonald is the former principal at Souris high and is well aware of the value of an officer in the school.
There is no town police force and Souris depends on the RCMP. The mayor has raised the issue with police, even if it meant providing an officer one day a week. But manpower at the detachment is limited and an officer in the school means there won’t be an officer patrolling a large area of Eastern Kings.
Souris will send a letter to Attorney General Janice Sherry about the staffing of officers in rural schools. The town probably doesn’t expect a positive response but it’s worth the effort.
Municipal and provincial government officials are too caught up in numbers — in terms of dollars and manpower.
What needs more attention is the impact on young people who stand to benefit from a police presence in their school. A guiding hand and an understanding chat can go a long way in helping a student choose the right path in life.