Ottawa public school trustee calls on board to immediately end School Resource Officer program
OTTAWA -- Ottawa's largest school board will vote Monday evening on a motion to end its participation in the School Resource Officer program with Ottawa police immediately.
Trustee Lyra Evans will introduce a motion at the Special Committee of the Whole meeting for the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, calling on the board to "immediately and completely" end it's engagement with the Ottawa Police School Resource Officer program.
The motion comes after the board's Office of Human Rights and Equity Advisor recommended the board terminate the School Resource Officer Program.
"During the consultation process we heard from many community members who were deeply impacted by police intervention in OCDSB schools," said the report from the Office of Human Rights and Equity Advisor.
"Their experiences clearly indicate that people who have been pushed to the margins in society (e.g., Indigenous, Black, 2SLGBTQ+ and people with disabilities) continue to be severely impacted by police presence in educational settings."
The report added, "There was wide support from people of all identities in the group discussions for the removal of police presence from schools."
The board launched community consultations on the program in March.
There are 24 full-time School Resource Officers who support all 375 schools across the four school boards and private schools. Two officers are dedicated to support Gloucester High School and RIdgemont High School, along with the seven elementary schools in their catchment areas.
"It is evident that the way OCDSB is currently using police to regulate behaviour of children in school is disproportionately impacting on children with disabilities and who are Indigenous, racialized and 2SLGBTQ+," said the report. "It is also evident that the inclusion of the police in the school community is creating barriers to the educational success of some Indigenous, Black and marginalized students who do not feel safe in the schools as a result."
Ottawa's public school board pays $95,000 for the School Resource Officer program, with Ottawa police covering the rest. Staff informed trustees last month that the 2021-22 budget does not include funding to cover the School Resource Officer program.
The board's Human Rights and Equity Office held 28 small group discussions on the issue of school resource officers in schools, and 3,100 people participated in a survey for students, parents and community members.
"Having armed police officers in schools has the potential to impact the well-being and development of all youth, but racialized youth are particularly susceptible to negative impacts given the long-term and widespread problem of systemic racism," said the report for the board, which was discussed during a meeting last Tuesday.
Evans says the goal is to make every child feel safe when they go to school.
"Many students do not feel safe with police around particularly the students from the Black community, the Indigenous community, and the people with disability community," Evans said in an interview with CTV News Ottawa last week. "They feel like the police are over policing them."
Evans motion also recommends the Ottawa Carleton District School Board issue a formal apology to the communities and students who have been harmed by the School Resource Officer program. The trustee also wants the board to ask the city of Ottawa to allocate the funds previously assigned to the Ottawa Carleton District School Board's share of the School Resource Officer Program to be used to start a mobile crisis team for youth.
The OCDSB's Committee of the Whole will meet on Monday at 6 p.m.
Ottawa Carleton District School Board staff are scheduled to present a draft of a revised policy on the School Resource Officer program in the fall, based on the report from the Human Rights and Equity Advisor.
With files from CTV News Ottawa's Leah Larocque