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Non-profit urges board to keep police out of Simcoe County schools

Collingwood, Wasaga Beach and Bradford West-Gwillimbury councils have all sent letters to the SCDSB in support of bringing the programs back, following the board deciding to stop police programming in schools in 2022
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While many councils across Simcoe County are putting pressure on the county’s school boards to bring police programming back into schools, one national organization is applauding the board’s decision to pump the brakes.

In a letter sent to Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) trustees on Feb. 28, director of Policing-Free Schools Andrea Vásquez Jiménez wrote in support of the decision of the board in 2022 to cancel regular police programming.

“With that said, there are major concerns as it has come to our attention that city-council elected officials from the Simcoe region have been seeking to have police-in-school programs reinstated without actually understanding the systemic issue of policing in schools,” wrote Jiménez in the letter.

The Town of Collingwood joined a chorus of voices calling on Simcoe County school boards to bring back the school resource officer program, by councillors voting at their meeting on Feb. 21 to send a letter in support to all Simcoe County school boards, the County of Simcoe and all member municipalities, Simcoe County MPPs, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and Solicitor General Michael Kerzner.

Wasaga Beach, Bradford West-Gwillimbury and Adjala-Tosorontio have sent letters to the same effect in recent months, as has County of Simcoe council. Orillia city council will consider following suit at their March 4 meeting.

“The Simcoe County District School Board just needs the political will and political courage to stand by your decision...and continue moving towards creating the conditions for ALL students to have educational spaces where they can heal, learn and thrive,” wrote Jiménez.

Policing-Free Schools (Canada) is a community-based organization that is dedicated to systemic changes for the co-creation of transformative, healthy, equitable policing-free educational spaces. They offer support to community organizers, educators, school boards, and post-secondary institutions in ending the practice of police and policing in school, college and university campus programs.

Jiménez points to “ample evidence of the detrimental and systemic impacts of police on students, especially Black, Indigenous, racialized, 2SLGBTQQIA+, disabled, neurodivergent students and students with precarious immigration status and intersecting identities.”

In June 2021, two different parent groups provided deputations to the SCDSB calling for the dissolution of police programs in local schools, citing incidents of Black or Indigenous students feeling unsafe, as well as suggesting social workers, not police, should be the government agency providing mental health and wellness supports.

The school resource officer program was dissolved at the Toronto District School Board in November 2017. Peel Region cancelled theirs in November 2020, as have multiple other school boards across Ontario.

While the Simcoe County District School Board cancelled regular police programming following those deputations, they have not linked their decision to pressure from racialized groups. The SCDSB said they made the decision following an internal review that found there was duplication between the programming being provided by police, and the health curriculum from the Ministry of Education.

Many police partnerships still happen at many Simcoe County schools, including safety patrol training, bike and traffic safety and digital safety presentations, presentations to secondary school law classes and the community safety officer positions at many high schools. The key difference now, is officers are only permitted in Simcoe County schools by invitation.

Representatives from the SCDSB declined to comment for this article.