Open Letter

To the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, Ottawa Catholic District School Board, Conseil des Écoles Publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario, and Conseil des Écoles Catholiques du Centre-Est

As concerned students, parents, educators and community members, we call on our schools to terminate their relationship with Ottawa Police Service and end the School Resource Officer (SRO) Program in favour of options that centre student support rather than fear and punishment. In the past two months alone, D’Andre Campbell, Eishia Hudson, Jason Collins, Stewart Kevin Andrews, Everett Patrick, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Chantel Moore, and Rodney Levi were all either murdered by or died within the custody of Canadian police forces. All were either Indigenous and/or Black. These recent deaths are not isolated incidents and are indicative of Canada’s violent [1] and racist [2] history of policing. Our very own Ottawa Police Service (OPS) has an ongoing history of police violence [3]. From Abdirahman Abdi, a Somali-Canadian man who was beaten to death by officers in 2016, to a more recent shooting of Greg Ritchie, an Indigenous man who was walking around at a mall, OPS has killed more than half a dozen people in the last three decades alone. Additionally, several OPS officers have been charged with acts of sexual violence both on and off duty. Racist and violent policing practices are nothing new to OPS, and this is why there is no place for them in Ottawa public schools. We are demanding for the end of public school relationships with OPS and the termination of the School Resource Officer (SRO) Program from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, Ottawa Catholic District School Board, Conseil des Écoles Publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario, and Conseil des Écoles Catholiques du Centre-Est. The presence of armed and uniformed police officers in our public schools has been shown to disproportionately harm students who are part of visible minority groups, particularly Black and Indigenous students. Furthermore, it upholds the school-to-prison pipeline [4] where criminalization of student behaviour leads to the overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous people in Canadian youth justice systems and prisons. Recent statistics [5] show that Black boys are 4x more likely to be imprisoned in youth justice systems than their white counterparts. Indigenous boys are 5x more likely, and Indigenous girls are 10x more likely. School Resource Officers from OPS aid in enforcing these disparities across race and gender.

According to researchers Salole and Abdulle in their 2015 study [6] on the school to prison pipeline in Toronto, surveillance from officers part of the SRO Program tells students that they are untrustworthy, hindering their ability to become successful in learning environments. The SRO Program authorizes over-policing in Black, Indigenous, and low-income neighbourhoods as it allows officers to follow students to and from school. The same study indicates that the continuation of surveillance and punishment disallows for a safe and positive school environment where children can develop healthy relationships and behaviours. Public schools are losing their grounds as safe havens due to the shift from accountability and trust to punitive and prison-type schools and safety measures. The violent practices of OPS officers do not centre the safety of Ottawa youth, especially Black and Indigenous youth. Guidance counsellors [7], social workers, and community members trained in crisis intervention [8] and mental health response are better suited to respond to student matters in ways which prioritize the safety of our students than SROs. The Toronto District School Board ended their SRO Program in 2017 [9] for these reasons, and it is time for Ottawa to follow suit. We must actively challenge the notion that policing provides safety when in reality, it harms racialized youth in environments that are meant to keep them safe. Removing police from schools is one of the first steps on our way to a better community where Black, Indigenous, racialized, disabled, and poor people are not subject to violence. If the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, Ottawa Catholic District School Board, Conseil des Écoles Publiques de l'Est d'Ontario, and Conseil des Écoles Catholiques du Centre-Est are committed to fighting racism in their schools, they must terminate the SRO Program and any other ties it has with OPS.

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Asilu Collective operates on the unceded and stolen territories of the Algonquin peoples. As racialized settlers, we are committed to uplifting the voices and demands of the peoples whose land we reside on.