We are a coalition of parents, residents and others concerned about racism in Simcoe County schools. It has come to our attention that last week, a student attending Bradford District High School was suspended for defying school authority, by refusing to remove a Thin Blue Line Flag from his vehicle. We appreciate and support the recognition that this symbol is offensive, and we are grateful for the proactive approach of the school.
We are reaching out today because we have learned of a “protest” being organized by parents and/or police, in retaliation to the school’s decision. The rally being organized to demonstrate on school property and throughout town is hazardous for our community and kids and sets a dangerous example of what is acceptable behaviour. We have asked the school and municipality to enacting protocols that will keep schools and the community and reinforce the stance that hate has no home in any public aspect of our society.
We made the following recommendations to the Bradford Secondary School and Simcoe County District School Board:
- Issue a statement of forewarning to staff, students and parents and offer the opportunity to keep students safe at home on the day of the rally with no repercussions.
- Reiterate their stance on the unacceptability of hate symbols at school and in our communities.
- Ensure that any vehicle flying the Thin Blue Line flag will be barred from school property.
- Report to the authorities any attempts of Thin Blue Line rally participants to demonstrate on school property as attacks on school property.
- Work with advocacy groups such as the Coalition for Safe Schools to expand Anti-Racism, Anti-Black Racism and Anti-Oppression training and education for teachers, staff and students.
We are reaching out to you today for three reasons:
- Immediate Response: We seek your support for these recommendations as well as your condemnation of the planned Thin Blue Line rally to mitigate the damaging impacts of such an action on our schools and communities. We ask for a clear statement that the police force does condone the display of offensive materials like these, which do not convey an attitude of safety and inclusiveness (including for BIPOC). We ask that you make a statement that solidarity with the police force can be shown with a blue ribbon.
- Ongoing Training and Education: We are seeking your support for extending Anti-Racism, Anti-Black Racism and Anti-Oppression training and education to police forces. In recent conversations with the Barrie Police regarding police activity both in and out of uniform, we reiterated how behaviours can be perceived by marginalized communities. We were repeatedly told that there is “no control” over police staff who choose to be racists or actions they take on their own time.
- Policing Policy: Accountability in the police force uplifts the good work that police do. When inappropriate behaviours by an officer on or off duty are not met with consequences, it reflects poorly on the entire police force, compromising the integrity and respectability of everyone who puts on a uniform. Part of the community work we are engaged in illuminates the dangers of ongoing police presence within the schools because of a display of behaviours to the communities that are tone deaf at the least if not downright racist.
The ‘us-vs-them’ stance promoted by the Thin Blue Line and Blue Lives Matter campaigns minimizes the real and valid concerns and experiences some equity-seeking groups have with police. It also undermines the relationship necessary for harmony between the police force and the communities they serve. It is not a thin blue line that stands between order and chaos, it is people. And when people come together to understand and address the issues of systemic racism and hate together, that is how we create peace and order in our communities for all.
While immediate attention needs to be given to mitigating the many potential damaging impacts of the Thin Blue Line rally, we want to support the long-term work of transforming systemic racism into systemic equity and inclusion. We look forward to meeting and discussing what this can look like and how groups such ours can partner with you through this process.
With support and respect,
Gillian Scobie Robin Shaw
Uplift Black – Director of Advocacy Local Allies
PARSC – Co-Chair