FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA - We, the undersigned community groups, express our collective support for a local OCDSB school’s decision to deny an Ottawa police officer's deeply concerning request to attend a grade one class uniformed and in a police car. As community members and grassroots movement groups who care deeply about the well-being of children and youth, particularly those who are targets of police violence, we understand the traumatic effects that police presence in schools has on students' mental and emotional well-being. Cops must stay out of schools.
As we have previously done, we once again commend the OCDSB's 2021 thoughtful review of the School Resource Officer (SRO) program and its findings, highlighting how police presence in schools has severely negative consequences for marginalized youth in Ottawa. It is essential to acknowledge that these impacted youth are pushed to the margins of society, regularly face systemic neglect, and are often targets of state violence and harm. Therefore, we believe that schools are responsible for creating a safe, equitable, and welcoming environment for all students, particularly those who have been historically oppressed. This kind of environment means schools without cops, accompanied by the development and implementation of transformative justice initiatives that foster non-violent conflict resolution skills, and work to prevent and respond to harm.
Last week, the Ottawa Police Association, Mayor Sutcliffe, and the Ontario Progressive Conservatives led by Premier Doug Ford attempted to create mass public outcry after a local parent, who happened to be an Ottawa police officer, was simply and justly requested by OCDSB to come to their school without their uniform and police car. As grassroots organizers, we knew that the successful termination of the SRO program in 2021 was not the end. We continue to work to eliminate all forms of policing in Ottawa schools. Removing police presence was step one in our journey towards a liberated education system free from coercion and violence.
The Ottawa police force has hosted several "human rights" forums in recent years in efforts to co-opt discussions on important topics like systemic racism and hate-motivated violence against marginalized groups. Yet despite their best propagandizing efforts to legitimize policing as a means to address these issues, community members showing up to these forums have demonstrated through their experiences that marginalized groups face extensive and disproportionate violence at the hands of police. The institution of policing and the presence of Ottawa police officers in community spaces like schools exacerbates harms against youth because it is a form of harm. No amount of trauma-informed language and practices can remedy the violence inherent to policing. Youth do not deserve to be the Ottawa police force’s latest experiment as they exercise these new ideological and material tools in schools.
Unsurprisingly, the Ottawa Police Association chose to escalate this issue via press and social media, rather than waiting for their scheduled meeting with OCDSB. This type of behaviour is not uncommon within an institution with a pattern of escalation, especially concerning their historical refusal to modify their policies and practices when requested to do so. Such behaviour further entrenches violence into the relationship between police and local communities, particularly with young people. If education about policing is the goal, OCDSB and its counterparts should expand their curriculums to include how oppressive structures shape and are reinforced by policing. This is where mass public outcry should be.
We express our sincerest solidarity with the local school's decision to prioritize the well-being of marginalized youth over the unwarranted reactions and manufactured outrage of the Ottawa Police Association, Mayor Sutcliffe, and the Progressive Conservatives. We urge the OCDSB to continue to center the voices of students whose safety and well-being are most vulnerable and often dismissed in their decisions on creating a safe, equitable, and welcoming space for all students.
No cops in schools!
Policing-free schools now!
This statement is supported by:
613/819 Black Hub
Coalition Against More Surveillance
Criminalization and Punishment Education Project
Nhora Aust, Justice for Anthony Aust
Punch Up Collective
Disability Justice Network of Ontario
House of PainT
For Media Inquiries:
Criminalization and Punishment Education Project (CPEP)
613-819 Black Hub
For inquiries in French: