We Demand Police-Free Schools Ontario Wide! #PoliceFreeSchoolsONWide

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In November 2017, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) voted for the removal of the School Resource Officer (SRO)  program. This decision was driven by an equity lens, student voice and community voice that spoke out over many years against the SRO program. It was a process that saw community organizers and educators work collaboratively in the best interest of all students*. 

Following the historical decision to remove the SRO program, a press conference was held to hear from lead organizers. Latinx, Afro-Latin-America, Abya Yala Education Network (LAEN) Co-Director Andrea Vásquez Jiménez called on the Minister of Education at that time, Mitzie Hunter, to remove police from all schools across the province. Mitzie believed that the issue of police in schools was a local school issue and that the decision should be made locally. This belief continued to remain the same when addressed by Co-Director SilviaArgentina Arauz.

The Liberal Minister ignored the systemic realities of the school-to-prison pipeline. Seen here and globally, the harmful impacts of the school-to-prison pipeline are entrenched within the educational system by way of police presence in schools. There are detrimental impacts on students, which disproportionally negatively impacts Black/African Diasporic, Indigenous, undocumented, disabled, students with mental health issues among other intersectional identity markers. 

The issue of policing in schools is not an isolated issue. It is not a local issue. This is not a one-school board or one post-secondary campus issue. The school-to-prison pipeline is a systemic issue. This is a provincial issue and we demand a system-level response by the provincial government. 

Having healthy and equitable, police-free schools is a human right. The failure to provide this space is a human rights violation. 

The dire impacts on students’ overall health and well-being along with the status-quo choice of investing into policing and criminalizing students rather than investing in ways that support students holistically and that actually create the conditions for learning, makes this a public health and labour issue as well.

There is more than enough data. What we need is political will to actionize a provincial strategy that includes #PoliceFreeSchoolsONWide

We renew our call on the provincial government and WE DEMAND POLICE-FREE SCHOOLS ONTARIO WIDE ACROSS ALL EDUCATIONAL LEVELS!

DEMANDS

1. Police-Free Schools across all educational levels be mandated provincially in Ontario (removal of all cops in schools program regardless of their names: School Resource Officer programs, School Engagement Team Programs, Campus Police Special Constable programs in post-secondary campuses etc.)

2. Decriminalize and eliminate laws, legislation and educational policies that criminalize students, and the creation of those that support students.

3. A paradigm shift from legislation that is anchored in punitive disciplinary practices, policing and criminalization of students (ex. Safe Schools Act to a Caring, Healthy & Equitable Schools Act), to one that is based in restorative/transformative justice practices, healing centred engagement and that is relationship centred.

4. Fix the education funding formula to have schools properly funded and have funding be equity-led and identify how much is spent on school policing and that those funds be shifted away and invested into preventive and supportive healthy school and educational needs

5. Deprioritize the use of police officers in all educational settings as an instrument of last resort.

#PoliceFreeSchoolsONWide,

Andrea Vásquez Jiménez and Silvia Argentina Arauz
Co-Directors of LAEN - Latinx, Afro-Latin-America, Abya Yala Education Network

One of the frameworks and definitions that we take up in our LAEN #PoliceFreeSchoolsONWide campaign comes from our partners in the #PoliceFreeSchools movement, this includes US based Alliance for Educational Justice and Advancement Project's definition of #PoliceFreeSchools: “Dismantling school policing infrastructure, culture, and practice; ending school militarization and surveillance; and building a new liberatory education system.”

*Since the removal of the SRO program, the TDSB Caring and Safe Schools Annual Report 2018-2019 key findings indicate that suspensions have dropped 24% and expulsions 53%--than in the 2016-2017 school year. This was done through a paradigm shift from punitive to transformative. “The most used interventions by schools were contacting the parent/guardian, guidance support, social work support and restorative practices.” (pg. 3)