My son has an autism diagnosis. He is eight years old, and I am extremely uncomfortable with the idea of him having any type of interaction with law enforcement now, or at any point in his future schooling because I know that police officers are trained to police; they are absolutely not trained to appropriately deal with the complex behaviours of children and teens in positions of disadvantage whose comportment may be outside of the "norm." What police are explicitly trained in is the use of force, and intimidation, and surveillance—these things are what make it clear to me that police have zero place in schools, and that children with disabilities like my son are simply not safe around SROs.

The SRO in my division doesn't answer to any counsellor, EA, teacher, nurse, vice-principal, principal, student services staff or indeed any in-school staff—only to a single division liaise superintendent. I tried to ask one of my son's teachers about her opinion on SROs and she was reluctant to speak about it, saying that as teachers they had to maintain neutrality. Why are teachers afraid to speak up about this program when they seem open to discussing all other aspects of our children's education? Policing represents extreme power, which instills fear. I’m not okay with that and nobody should be. Can we really believe that if teachers are uncomfortable, students are not? Kids understand power dynamics very well. They understand what a gun is. And that includes children like my son.

Parent, Louis Riel School Division

I was sitting in the stage area at TC doing some last minute studying before my only exam and last at that school before transferring to a different school in the division. Already full of tension from having to take an exam and I also didn’t really wanting to talk to anyone the SRO came up and started talking to me about how he used to attend the school along with other things. In general even before the BLM movement I’ve been uncomfortable with Police. I am openly autistic and have seen what they do to people when they are having a tough time or having a panic attack. After he left I thought In my head “that was so traumatizing, how could you not see that I just wanted to be left alone ” and “why is he picking me specifically to talk to” I think personally SRO have no real beneficial purpose in schools I think the money should be put towards hiring more guidance councillors in school or mental health professionals trained specifically to help students, not to use their title as an excuse to profile students of minorities. (Happened January 2020)

Student, RETSD Transcona collegiate

St.Johns highschool was one of the first high schools to receive a resource officer between 2001-2004, I remember her. Her name? No. But i remember the confrontation, the haughty condescension when we would ask if we were breaking any laws when she would approach us and we would walk away explaining she's not a teacher,  she's not a resource we required at the moment and we weren't required to engage with her, she would forcibly grab us and pull us into the office to find an authority who could suspend or reprimand.

When she was brought into "conflicts" it was to prove criminalization of childhood conflicts.


I was expelled at the suggestion of the resource officer after a serious incident that required mental health care, adult intervention and support; I was provided a criminal assement,  and was immediately removed from any resources the school division could have provided me and my family and my education was put at risk while the St.Johns team decided my fate over a 3 month period risking the last semester of grade 10 before Sisler Highschool proactively called me and asked me why I had not responded to their referral in 2.5 months.

I was subsequently denied health care after lashing out at Mr.Michael bridgeford read for making lewd sexual comments to the 13-17 year old girls in his class about enjoying watching us all turn into lesbians, mr. David heilmann telling us we aren't in a fucking movie, ghetto do nothing kids dont make it out of hood if they dont practice their instruments and the litany of bullies I had been harassed for years and physically  assaulted by and having had brought all of these legitimate concerns to the resource officer(mr.read later went on stress leave after many students accused him of inappropriate advancements)when it came to me being at the end of a conflict , that's when zero tolerance was enforced with little to no planning for the me the student who didn't have the skills to properly deal with conflict, wasnt able to restore or repair damage and wasn't even made aware the outcome of my resource officer recommended expelling for 3 months when it had been decided 2 weeks after the incident .

Mr.Heshka the Sisler principle is single-handedly responsible for my graduating on time and for any sort of academic success i have achieved. His honesty "you know, St.johns tried to screw you hey?" Was the first time I trusted an authority because he was brutally honest about the fuckery at St.Johns and that he welcomes any kid expelled from there with open arms. Redemption, my first example, guess i have a resource officer to thank for my life long fostered hatred of police, authority and for keeping me away from mental health care until I was 29

Student, St.Johns highschool Wsd1

I never knew any of the cops names because they never introduced themselves to me. I also liked to be as far removed from them as possible.

But
I do always remember the kids being very on edge. Instead of feeling protected they felt afraid or uneasy. I could tell whenever everyone would be playing and the police woman came outside there would be this tension where they would continue to play but always be observant of what she was doing at the same time. when I was 1 on 1 with this child he would always stop what he was doing to observe any police car on the street or the police lady in the school and I remember asking him how he felt when he saw police and he told me they are “loud and scary”

ECE and lunch supervisor, LRSD

The first time we had police in one of my schools it was primary school and the teacher said the officer was there to teach us about the work police did to help out the city. I didn’t fully understand why but it made me uncomfortable. I think then I summed it up to the fact he had a gun, thé thought of a gun at my school terrified me. Later on in high school I would see police officers in the hall more frequently. I was in highschool at the “height ” of Ferguson, Sandra Bland, when Black Lives Matter as an organization was just coming together and hands up don’t shoot. At 14 I had taken the time to read the literature and realized why (taking in the standpoint of me being a black woman) police freaked me out  so much. Whenever the police came to my school it was to spread copaganda. I remember on one occasion in my final year my teacher had asked us our thoughts on the police to which I responded saying I didn’t trust them and I wanted them abolished. She then went on to demean me while my classmates laughed. The next class she brought in an officer to “confront” me about my “misconceptions” about police as an institution. Another moment a cop came to spread more copaganda a friend and I commented about a video of state sanctioned violence we had seen on the news. The officer used this as an opportunity to gaslight us and rally our peers against us. Although I never saw officers use their power to inact acts of physical violence they definitely used it as a way to enact emotional and abstract violence against myself and other black and indignious students in the school whenever an opportunity arose. They made school an environment that was already uncomfortable due to having to occupy a space where you were not represented even more anxiety ridden. It is incredibly unfair to communities who historically have been and continue to be policed to have to deal with this institution in a school on top of other systemic injustices that are naturally engraved into the Canadian school system.

I was a student, Pembina Trails and Louis Riel

I had a student who was often running away from home and their attendance was not the best. One day when they did come to school, police were called by their family to bring them home. The student began crying and screaming due to the nature of the situation. They were not violent by any means, just upset. The student began to calm down, but police grew impatient and said it was taking to long. The police put the student in cuffs to take them out of the school. The student screamed all the way out of the school. If their relationship with school wasn’t rocky before this incident, it sure was after. This is not the only time police have come into the building and put youth as young as 12 into handcuffs to escort them out. Police have no place in schools.

Teacher

We had an incident with a student where they were escalating and becoming more hostile and violent. I had worked closely with this student and knew that involving the police would cause the situation to become even more escalated. The principal still called the SRO and the student feared he was being arrested and ran from the school and did not return for a week. The SRO’s do not make students feel more safe, they are still cops, and our inner city youth should not feel targeted where they are expected to learn.

Educational Assistant

One thing that I haven’t really seen in discussions around police in schools is when police come talk to classes about not doing drugs and things along that nature, they always finish with a question period. In my career, every single Q&A has yielded questions along the same vein: « do you have a gun? » « have you ever shot your gun? » « can we see your gun ?». Though they never unholster their firearm, they do show the taser and I’ve seen them pass their metal baton around. There is a certain type of little boy who is always transfixed with the weapons. I  sometimes wonder what these police visits do for their development, seeing a strong man that they admire casually talking about having multiple weapons constantly on their person. These boys often aspire to become police officers themselves. I shudder to think that little boys obsessed with the weapons that police carry might someday carry those weapons themselves and perpetuate a culture of violence in our city.

Teacher

We didn’t have police in school but when they came for incidents that occurred in school I always seen a native kid involved. My experience was while I was a grade 8 student. I was outside at lunchtime sitting and talking with my friends. A grade 7 student with his friends started throwing grapes at me. After the 3rd grape, I verbally warned him that 1 more would get him my fist in his face. He threw the grape, I just walked over and punched him, he fell, his grade 8 brother jumped up and head locked me. Oddly, I was mature enough that I did what I needed and never fought or intended on fighting.

It was all a 5 minute long situation when the teacher got there. Just some grapes, a punch, a headlock from his big brother then the teacher. In the School office, getting our punishment, the school brought a police officer because of the “assault.” The officer must have got “the story” from the school because when he arrived he started with 5 minutes aimed just to me about how charges can be laid, expulsion blah blah blah.

When he shut up I asked where the big brother was and he knew nothing of the big brother. I asked about the grape assault and he knew nothing. So he decided to ask me what happened.....He asked the other kid if he heard my warning and if I told the story correct, the kid agreed. The cop turned to the teacher, said have a nice day and left. He was correct I think, the school’s rendition of the story could’ve got me in trouble if I wasn’t smart enough to talk in that room with the principal, cop and other kid. Maybe it’s cause I’m native?

Former Student

when i was 15/16 (2013-2014) i went to the principles at my school about a severe bullying issue with a girl in the school who kept attacking me, mostly via twitter and spreading false rumors online. and when the school said they couldn't do anything to help, i went to the school cop thinking she would. and word for word the school cop told my mother and i during a meeting "girls will be bitches, you should learn to grow thicker skin" and went on about how if she was my age she would've just beat up that girl up by now.

she did nothing to help my situation and left me feeling more hopeless than ever and feeling as if i should take matters into my own hands almost in the way she slightly suggested. the female cop i had at my school did not help anyone, from any story i heard all she did was provoke situations and make people, mainly the guys, out like criminals especially if they were just being reckless teenage boys or were experiencing drug issues. she did not make me feel safer in school, if anything it taught me to distrust the police system simply based off of my experience when i asked for help, and listening to peers talk about theirs did not help either.

police have no business being in schools, if you want to do anything to help schools, bring in mental health professionals and people who can actually help kids during challenging situations, like bullying for example, if the school isn't capable enough to deal with it on their own. a cop in a school does nothing but leave everyone on edge and feeling like they've done something wrong when they haven't. kids have enough on their plates, they do not need to feel on edge every second of the day with a cop wandering the halls.

Past student, graduated 2015

Our School Resource Officer has had an antagonistic relationship with many of our school’s middle years girls for quite a while. He seems to enjoy goading them, especially when they are in an already escalated state, knowing full well that they dislike him. Once, while cruising the community in his cop car, the SRO saw one of these girls walking to school and rolled down his window to say hi. The girl flipped him off and continued walking. The SRO leaned further out his window and said “Do that again and I will break your fucking finger.” How is this helping to build “positive relationships” between police and families who have already had many racist and violent interactions with police in the past? Why are we claiming that our schools are safe places for children and families to be, while simultaneously partnering with these violent and oppressive systems?  

Teacher

Gang awareness presentations are often made by SROs to school staff as “Professional Development”. Having sat in on these, they include slides of colours, numbers, letters, and logos to equip staff with identifiers of gang-involvement. This directly influences the criminalization of largely BIPOC students as staff are made to feel welcome to alert the SRO when they see these identifiers. I remember coming out of the presentation with a problematic fascination for gang activity. And that’s one of the most horrifying problems- police involvement in schools has a slow and quiet influence on staff that can inform your practice without you even realizing it.

Teacher

Police presentations about topics like sexting, or drugs and alcohol do so much damage. They do not follow ANY best practices centres in equipping young people to make informed decisions that prevent harm. I worked with teens in a sexual health program for many years. When we talked about digital communication and “sexting” they would tell horror stories about police presentations that shamed girls and women for sharing images of themselves, used scare tactics about how they would never be able to get those images back. They would refer to even consensually sending an image of yourself as “child pornography”.  Instead of hearing about the nuances of consent, respecting someone’s bodily autonomy, and other helpful messaging that promotes consensual behaviour; the message was basically “this is illegal, you will be caught.” In all of this victim blaming, they would also be referred to their SRO if they needed help- total gaslighting.

Health Educator

The SRO brought the entire staff in for a presentation on a PD day. During the presentation, we were forced to watch footage of gunmen shooting and killing people, and we had to listen to recording of people talking to 911 as people in schools were being murdered. It was traumatizing, and it was followed up by telling us that if we wanted to stop this, we needed to be ready to fight gunmen ourselves and teach our students to fight them too, even if it resulted in our death or students’ deaths.

Teacher