Media Notice: ‘We all know that feeling’: Parents Against Racism — Simcoe County wants police out of schools
By Sara Carson
Police presence in school makes some youths uncomfortable, said Gillian Scobie of Parents Against Racism – Simcoe County. Black, Indigenous and other students of colour may feel anxious around police, she said, and they’re not alone.
“We all know that feeling. When you’re driving and you see a police officer, we start thinking, ‘Am I driving right?’ ” Scobie said. “You know the feeling. It’s just introducing it to these kids really early.”
The parent group has asked the Simcoe County District School Board to remove officers from schools.
“I hope they take into consideration there are other ways to get these messages through to the kids. Just the presence of the police is what the problem is. It’s not just the materials that they’re showing,” Scobie said.
Programs addressing drug use, bullying and other issues should be headed by social workers or mental-health workers, she said.
In response to the request, the board has asked for a yearly report on all police programming and activities in elementary and secondary schools.
“We did want to get more insight into exactly what the officers are doing — how they’re involved in our schools, how they interact with our students,” said board chair Jodi Lloyd.
The board also passed a motion to publicly publish suspensions and expulsions data, including students’ race, ethnicity and gender. The data will not identify students, Lloyd said.
Natasha Shakespeare, founder and chairperson of Parents Against Racism, said if concerns about police directly impacted school trustees, there would be no officers in schools.
“At our children’s expense, our school board is trying to learn and unlearn what racialized communities already know and what ample data has already shown,” she said.
Lloyd said the two motions will allow the board to capture information on potential racism, discrimination and bias.
Police are not in schools now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The school board works with various OPP detachments, the South Simcoe Police Service and the Barrie Police Service. Programs and services vary by detachment.