Wednesday, November 05, 2008

West End Students Vote Cops Out

The Student School (an alternative school located in Western Tech) unanimously votes cops out of its school.

by Louisa Worrell

Basics #11 (November 2008)

On September 10th, 2008 at a school council meeting of the Toronto alternative high school, The Student School, students and teachers voted to have their school’s name taken off of the list of Toronto schools in which a police officer will be stationed during the 2008-09 school year.

The school’s administrator, John Morton, delivered the decision to Western Technical School’s principal (which is also The Student Schools principal), explaining that the vote was unanimous and that a large number of students felt that they did not want a police officer in their hallways for various reasons. The principal informed John Morton 24 hours later that their name had been taken off the list and therefore no police would be present in their hallways or classrooms. It may seem incredible that the unity of these students was enough to remove the police officer from their school, but it’s true.
The vote was initiated by a student who was surprised to read in the Toronto Star that their school would have a police officer. This student raised the issue with people at his school and decided to bring it forth at the school-wide student-run, mandatory student council meeting that is held every two weeks, in which the issue was debated and voted on.

A motion was put forth to have the school’s name taken off the list, it was seconded and then a 40 minute discussion ensued. This was the school’s first council meeting of the year, and was attended by over 85% of the student body and all the teachers. During the discussion many students, even students who don’t normally speak at council meetings, spoke about the reasons why they didn’t want police in their school. This topic was obviously very important to the students.

Stacey George, a student at the school said, “Well, for me, we didn’t have a say in what was going on. I was like, ‘How could they just put our school on the list?’ Nobody came, not even the principal, to tell us what was happening.”

John Morton informed Basics that the feedback came from many different students and touched on many different concerns, including people who had negative experiences with police before, the feeling of being intimidated by police presence and the presence of guns in the school.

When informed that the point of having these officers in the school was to build student-police relationships, George responded by saying her impression of police is that “They are always trying to find something wrong. They aren’t trying to find out why I am the way I am, they are just trying to make me wrong for the way I am.”

Students from around Toronto should take note of this example of high school students mobilizing for action and winning. If a small group of 175 students could drive a cop out of their school, then the tens of thousands of high school students across Toronto can very well do the same if they organize.