School board hires officers to provide security at Saunders

Saunders Secondary School in London, Ont. is seen on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. (Bryan Bicknell / CTV London)

LONDON, Ont. - A rotation of off-duty police officers have been hired by the Thames Valley District school board to patrol Saunders secondary school this week to calm tensions.

The Chief of the Oneida Nation of the Thames sent a letter to London police demanding security be in place for First Nations children attending Saunders secondary school, in London’s southwest end.

Chief Jessica Hill says it’s in response to violence that has flared up at the school over the last couple of weeks.

“My concern is that our children will be safe and that there will be no racially charged violence at Saunders.”

According to multiple accounts from students there have been a number of altercations between First Nations students and students of Middle Eastern descent.

London police say a school resource officer, who frequently travels between secondary schools, is stationed at Saunders for the week.

Police say no complaints have been filed with them.

The deployment follows a decision by Oneida Nation of the Thames, this past Friday, to cancel school buses for its children who attend Saunders. A letter that went out to parents and guardians says there are safety concerns with fights that have occurred between First Nation students and other students at Westmount Mall, which is across the road from Saunders.

It read in part, “To ensure the health & safety of our students, Oneida education is encouraging students to stay on school property or if you must leave the school – go in groups (don’t take off by yourself).”

According to multiple accounts, from students, there have been a number of altercations between First Nations students and students of Middle Eastern descent.

Hill says she remains hopeful the situation will “simmer down," adding a “peaceful resolution” is what everyone is hoping for. However, she still has fears of escalation.

She says a broader working group must be created long term to address the at times “rocky” relationship between First Nations and Saunders, which she says, dates back three decades.

“I think it has to be done through some real work together, the school board, Saunders and ourselves.”

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