Updated: Mar 9
Safety is a basic need.
In Maslow's hierarchy, it's second only to physiological needs like food, water, and air (a sense of belonging is next).
Most people would agree that they want to feel 'safe'. And that means less risk, less danger, less harm.
Nobody should be worried for their safety as they go about their day.
Not while walking the dog. Or at work. And certainly not at school.
But I’m concerned that's exactly what's happening to some students across Simcoe County. It's absolutely essential that schools ensure all students feel valued and safe.
For many, having a police officer in their space makes that impossible.
That’s not conjecture.
In previous studies across the province, students have expressed that
“the presence of an SRO [school resource officer] within their school has made them feel less safe, less welcome and less engaged in learning”.
An equitable classroom gives each student the support they need to optimize their educational progress. (I love me an equity lens!)
Schools must create a learning environment where all students are able to focus on their education.
Sounds simple enough. But some students don't feel safe with police hanging around. And I can totally understand that.
“Wait...Why are police in schools?” Great question.
Although, I should say, we're a bit late to the party. Many school boards in our province have been asking that same question for years.
Toronto's public board (TDSB) was the first to question it.
When they reviewed their police-in-school program, TDSB officials agreed they would put greater stock in what students who had been most affected by the program had to say, even if that was a minority of students.
Taking an equity lens? 💛A beautiful thing. (The process was also community-led! 💛💛)
Out of 15,000, some 2,200 students said having an officer at school made them feel like they were being watched or targeted.
TDSB voted to end their police in school program back in 2017. They faced some backlash for giving more weight to those students (especially from police!). But the results achieved in the years following show they made the right decision (check out the letter linked below for more detail on that, and better alternatives).
The conversation has grown exponentially as a result of social movements questioning the many hats police wear in our communities. (Spoiler: Not all of them fit.)
The good news? Across Ontario, in the last handful of years, six school boards and a University have ended their police in school programs.
Even better news?
Simcoe County District School Board has placed the program 'under review'.
That means they heard the community when we spoke out about this. Further proof our voices matter! ✨
However, as a collective, we've been unable to confirm if the program has been fully paused while the review is completed.
The data collected from other boards is more than enough to know how detrimental the presence of police can be.
I've spoken with many individuals who worry this process will drag on. In the meantime, students will continue to be forced into an environment that feels unsafe for them, daily. If our school boards take an equity lens, they’ll prioritize the students that are most negatively impacted. Why would they not take away those barriers to learning?
If you'd like to read more, please take a look at this letter our collective wrote for you.
My take on a quick way to increase safety? Create police-free schools. I'd love to hear your thoughts. (I'm sure the school boards would too! 😉)
And finally, if you know someone who should read this, please share it with them.
#PoliceFreeSchools #PoliceFreeSchoolsONWide #PoliceFreeSchoolsCanadaWide Gordon, A. (2017, November 10). Get police out of Toronto high schools, TDSB staff recommend. Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2017/11/10/no-more-police-in-high-schools-tdsb-staff-recommend.html
Foppiano, D. (2019, December 19). SRO programs in Ontario’s public schools. PPG Review. https://ppgreview.ca/2019/12/16/sro-programs-in-ontarios-public-schools/
Engage Barrie Organization encourages our members and guests to contribute blog posts on a variety of topics that fall under our "equitable, empowered, engaged" umbrella, in the hopes of sharing a variety of perspectives and experiences. Please be aware that the views and opinions expressed by our blog contributors do not necessarily reflect any official position of Engage Barrie Organization.