A group of teachers, parents, students, and community members for healthy, equitable, and police-free Winnipeg schools

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

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

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

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
See all 33 stories

Updates

Watch the Case for Police-Free Schools Info Session

The January 6th, 2021 info session, The Case for Police-Free Schools, is now available to watch and share online.

Hosted by Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie (Waniskatan/Red Rising Magazine), this information session includes organizers and school trustees from Winnipeg and across the country, including Andrea Vásquez Jiménez (Latinx, Afro- Latin-America, Abya Yala Education Network), Robyn Maynard (author of Policing Black Lives), Ella Taylor (Justice 4 Black Lives Winnipeg), Sabreina Dahab (Hamilton Students for Justice), and Jennifer Reddy (Vancouver School Board trustee).


The Case for Police-Free Schools Information Session


Join us on Wednesday January 6th 2021 at 7pm CST for a free information session, The Case for Police-Free Schools, co-presented with the Institute for Humanities at the University of Manitoba and Winnipeg Police Cause Harm.


Cities and school boards across Canada are choosing to end police presence in schools as a concrete step toward equity and anti-racist education. In Winnipeg, school boards are starting to reevaluate these programs, as community organizers situate the call for police-free schools within a global movement for racial justice.

Hosted by Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie (Waniskatan/Red Rising Magazine), this information session includes organizers and school trustees from Winnipeg and across the country, including Andrea Vásquez Jiménez (Latinx, Afro- Latin-America, Abya Yala Education Network), Robyn Maynard (author of Policing Black Lives), Ella Taylor (Justice 4 Black Lives Winnipeg), Sabreina Dahab (Hamilton Students for Justice) and Jennifer Reddy (Vancouver School Board trustee).

If you're a parent, student, teacher, education worker, school trustee, administrator, or simply want to learn more about this movement, please join the discussion and register for this free information session.


Police Removed from Peel District Schools in Ontario

On Wednesday, November 18th, Peel Regional Police announced a permanent end to the School Resource Officer Program in Peel District Schools. “It was evident during the consultation phase that the current SRO program caused a negative impact on segments of our student population,” said the Peel police in a press release. This is a huge victory for everyone organizing for Police-Free Schools Ontario-Wide, and we send our congratulations from Treaty 1 territory.

This decision has great importance for students, parents, and teachers all across the country. A high-profile report on the Peel District SRO program by researchers from Carleton University claimed that most students felt safe around police in schools. Regarding the removal of police from Toronto schools, the report simply claimed that Toronto has different demographics. This report was preferred by media and used by school boards across Canada to defend their SRO programs. What do those proponents say today? That their schools are different still, and that this latest consultation doesn't count?

With the Peel Report behind us, it is our belief that we will be able to have more honest conversations about the impact of School Resource Officers here in our communities. We're thankful for the work and advocacy of all those involved in this pathbreaking decision.


Police-Free Schools Winnipeg offers to livestream Winnipeg School Division meeting

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - Police-Free Schools Winnipeg (PFSW) is formally extending an offer to Winnipeg School Division (WSD) to help livestream its board meeting tonight if WSD is once again unable to figure out a technical solution to the problem.

PFSW is a group of parents, education workers, and community activists who are organizing to remove police from schools. As recently reported on by the Winnipeg Free Press, the WSD board has repeatedly failed to livestream its meetings or post videos of the meeting online after the fact, despite the other five school boards in Winnipeg managing to do so.

The WSD’s explanation for this was “we don’t have the technology to be able to broadcast.” This is an odd claim given that the school division, the largest in the province, started livestreaming its meetings in 2015 following a requirement by the province to improve transparency. Given that all that is required to livestream a meeting is a smartphone with an internet connection, PSFW is offering to send a member of the group to the meeting to livestream it to the group’s YouTube channel so that people can watch it.

Public meetings should be made accessible at all times, especially during a global pandemic that greatly restricts the ability for people to attend and participate. The WSD board is in the process of debating many important issues, including the presence of police in schools and the renaming of a school currently named after a white supremacist. It is incumbent on the board to ensure that parents, education workers, students, and community members can watch these debates.

If invited to attend and livestream the meeting, the PSFW member will closely follow all public health recommendations including wearing a mask and socially distancing, as well as any other requirements the board may desire. The resulting video will be available on the group’s YouTube channel for anyone to watch or share.

For more info or to arrange an interview about this, contact policefreeschoolswpg@gmail.com.


Press round-up, September 24-October 20

No police in Winnipeg schools? School resource officer program to be reviewed by WSD (Winnipeg Free Press Metro, 10/20/20)

WSD to review its police-in-schools program participation (Winnipeg Free Press, 10/6/20)

Watch delegate presentations to Winnipeg City Council (9/30/20)

Group calling for removal of police from schools (Global News, 9/29/20)

Watch delegate presentations to the Winnipeg Police Board (9/24/20)

Recarving a rubber stamp (The Uniter, 9/24/20)



Press round-up, September 15-20

Police Free Schools Winnipeg wants SROs out of schools (CBC Up to Speed, 9/17/20)

Community group calls for police officers to be removed from Winnipeg schools (CBC News, 9/17/20)

Alarms raised about Winnipeg police-in-schools program (Winnipeg Free Press, 9/17/20)

Police in school programs become Canadian issue (Winnipeg Free Press, 9/17/20)

Cops in Schools Could End (Manitoba Post, 9/18/20)

Winnipeg group calling for an end to police officers in schools (CTV News, 9/17/20)

Community group calls for police-free schools (CityNews, 9/15/20)


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