After-hours gatherings are turning Leaside school grounds into danger zones

Photo of the front of Northlea Public School.
Northlea Public School.

For the last year and a half, teenage socialization has been particularly affected because of the pandemic. While we are all relieved that vaccination uptake is high among our teens, allowing them to reconnect with friends once again, many of us are concerned about a noted increase in weekend gatherings on TDSB sites after dark, particularly in Leaside. While such gatherings are not new, this summer and fall we have witnessed a significant change, not only in the size and noise level, but also the frequent acts of vandalism that often accompany these events.

For nearby residents, these late-night gatherings are disruptive and upsetting; for children who use our schoolyards and playgrounds on the weekends, the broken glass and garbage left behind create an unsightly, even dangerous, environment. Moreover, they are an insult to the pride and hard work put into making these spaces inviting.

With the pandemic is still very much a reality, our caretakers need to spend their time keeping our buildings safe and clean on the inside, not cleaning up messes left by disrespectful young people who know better than to litter or throw beer bottles on the pavement where they inevitably shatter. After one weekend of parties at Northlea Elementary and Leaside High, both sites were left with multiple broken windows, many of them brand new, and at Northlea, outdoor lights were shattered. Another weekend, a wheelchair ramp to a portable was ripped apart and moved to the middle of the field. Such acts of vandalism impose unnecessary costs on facility budgets which ought to be focused on aging infrastructure.

During the course of the last year, many community members have expressed their concerns and frustration. In response, I have met with neighbours, Toronto Police Services (TPS), Councillor Robinson’s office, parent council representatives, school administrators, and TDSB staff, including TDSB security, looking for ways to deal with this issue.

On the local level, principals have reached out to their school families and met with students to discuss and underscore the importance of being good neighbours within their community. Principals have also been working with TDSB security and the Safe and Caring Schools department to explore all available resources to prevent these events from recurring. The increase since last June in size and level of noise and destruction has made it clear that the entire Leaside community must work together to address this issue.

So, what can we all do to help? TPS staff from 53 Division are requesting that Leasiders alert them when issues arise, either by calling 911 if the issue requires immediate police or emergency services, or by calling the non-emergency line at 416-808-2222. Residents can also call TDSB security at 416-395-4620. For both TPS and TDSB security, logging calls from specific areas and sites is crucial, as it enables them to allocate resources strategically.

As a parent and member of this community for almost two decades, I have witnessed first-hand the frequent and positive engagement of our youth: stepping up to run charitable initiatives, creating businesses through social entrepreneurship, and taking on leadership roles that all of us can be proud of and learn from. The gatherings we have been witnessing in Leaside in recent months should not define our youth. So, please, let’s all check in with our kids, and empower our families and youth to make choices that support our community. If your children are struggling, please reach out to your school principals, teachers, or guidance counsellors – they can offer support and access resources for your children and families.

Leaside is a wonderful neighbourhood. It’s incumbent upon all of us to do our part to preserve it as a safe and welcoming community.

About Rachel Chernos Lin 15 Articles
Rachel Chernos Lin is TDSB Trustee for Ward 11.