MEDIA ADVISORY - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2021
Unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), səl̓ílwətaʔɬ(Tsleil-Waututh) and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nations, Vancouver BC
– On April 7th, the Vancouver School Board (“VSB”) meets again to discuss the School Liaison Officer (“SLO”) Program. Prior to the VSB Trustee Meeting, Justice for Girls, Pivot Legal Society and Cops Out of Schools will be supporting community members directly-impacted by the ongoing presence of police officers in schools.
A press conference has been called for the evening of Wednesday April 7 at the VSB entrance.
WHAT: Response to VSB deliberations regarding SLOs in elementary & secondary schools
WHEN: Wednesday April 7, 4PM onwards
WHERE: VSB Head Office, 10th Ave Entrance [google map]
WHO: Directly-impacted students, community members, Justice For Girls & Pivot Legal Society
In March 2021, the VSB released the independent review of the program, completed by Argyle Consulting. The review notes the negative impact of police in schools for Black and Indigenous students, notable as Black and Indigenous youth remain disproportionately criminalized. The call to remove police officers from VSB has been endorsed by the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council, the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers Association and the Vancouver Secondary Teachers' Association.
While VSB has a real opportunity to improve Black, Indigenous and racialized students’ safety and equal access to education, their slow consultation process has consistently failed to engage with the impacts of over-policing, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the devastating impacts of criminalization that have been raised by the community.
Cops out of Schools is committed to centering the voices and experiences of students. Over and over students have expressed that they do not feel safe in school with cops. It is imperative that the Vancouver school board listen to students and end the SLO program. An anti-racist school environment is a necessary mechanism in creating safe, healthy and inclusive learning environments. Some students and alumni of colour may relate positive experiences with the police or cadets, but they should not be weaponized against Black and Indigenous students. Individual experiences do not negate the input and experiences of Indigenous and Black students and community members.
- Cops out of Schools
For 20 years Justice For Girls has fought against racist and sexist police responses to teenage girls who live in poverty. Today, JFG is supporting students who are speaking out against the VSB consultation regarding cops in schools. As an advocacy organization, we are standing alongside Black, Indigenous and racialized girls to call attention to the failures of the VSB review. The students’ entitlement to basic human rights should not be subject to a six-month review process led by a mostly white consulting group. Black Indigenous and racialized students have the right to a safe and healthy learning environment, free from fear of being policed.
- Sue Brown, Director of Legal Advocacy & Policy, Justice for Girls
Cops in Schools are harming Black & Indigenous students
From the outset of the SLO program review, VSB trustees have been slow to respond and have relied on a lengthy and bureaucratic process, despite clear calls to terminate the program. The presence of police in schools has a noted impact on Black and Indigenous students, who have been clear about the impact of surveillance, criminalization, excessive use of force, and the blatant failures to respond to racist violence within the school environment. Similarly, research conducted by Salole and Abdulle (2015), based on interviews with 15 racialized youth with experience of police in Toronto and Peel-area school found that all interviewees valued education and knowledge, but their full participation in school was undermined by surveillance and policing practices.
At the local level, both BC Community Alliance and Black Lives Matter-Vancouver have also called for the end of the controversial SLO program during previous VSB meetings. The call to remove police from schools has become an integral part of the broader movement to defund police, as reflected in demands set forth by groups such as Cops Out of Schools and the Defund 604 Network
Jurisdictions, such as the Edmonton, Toronto, Peel, and York District School Boards in Ontario, took swift and decisive action to remove police from schools in recognition that their presence undermines students' sense of dignity, safety and self-worth. The VSB must recognize that police in schools perpetuate harm for Black, Indigenous and racialized students and cease their reliance on criminalizing institutions. Amidst ongoing social movements that are calling attention to the inherent violence of police, students in Vancouver continue to demand the immediate removal of cops from all schools
Press Conference Details
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION & DOCUMENTS
Vancouver School Board School Liaison Officer: Student and Stakeholder Engagement Program
VSB contracted Argyle Communications Inc. to conduct a third-party review of the SLO program. Engagement included interviews, discussion groups, surveys and a written submission process including input from students and stakeholders.. The engagement program was directed to centre the voices of students who self-identified as Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) and/or with direct experience with the SLO program itself.
Cops out of Schools
Cops out of Schools is a group of parents, educators, and community members working towards two goals: (1) Immediate end to School Liaison Officer programs, and (2) Community-led programs that take a restorative and trauma-informed approach to creating safety and well-being for all students, particularly Black and Indigenous students. They are primarily based in xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil Waututh), and sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) territories (Vancouver) and support other districts in removing police from schools.
About Justice for Girls
Justice for Girls promotes social, economic and environmental justice and an end to violence, poverty and racism in the lives of teenage girls who live in poverty. Formed in 1999, Justice for Girls locates their work within the overall project of women’s equality. The organization recognizes that addressing intersecting/interlocking forms of oppression is fundamental to ending violence against girls and young women. Justice for Girls has had Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 2009.
About Pivot Legal Society
Pivot Legal Society is a leading Canadian human rights organization that uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion in Canada. Pivot’s work includes challenging laws and policies that force people to the margins of society and keep them there. In 2020, Pivot wrote to Vancouver School Board Trustees and Superintendent in support of the petition “Police Free Schools are Safer Schools: The end of policing in Vancouver schools.”