Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
A few weeks ago, our high school, Weston Collegiate Institute, had a few people from the NO COPS campaign (Newly Organized Coalition Opposing Police in Schools) pay a visit to us at lunch time. They set up a table across the street and had stacks of free BASICS newspapers to give out. While BASICS organizers are well known for distributing the papers in Toronto communities, the members of NO COPS who were there that day, strapped with their BASICS issues, had another purpose.
What these guys had was a petition to the remove the “Special Resources Officer” - the uniformed armed police officers in high schools – from the 30 or so TDSB secondary schools across Toronto.
For the majority of the students at Weston, this petition is allowing us to voice our concerns about having a cop in our school. There was a lack of community consultation in bringing this cop here in the first place. The Toronto Police Services initiated and funds this program and the Toronto District School Board approved it at an executive level. The feelings among most of the students at Weston C.I. is that they do not want a cop in their school and they feel threatened by the presence of an armed police officer in the school for numerous reasons. The students cannot identify with an individual who wears a massive bullet proof vest and carries a loaded gun and taser, which is quite intimidating particularly for people coming from T.O.’s “priority neighbourhoods” – let’s be honest, ghettoes – who witness and experience police activity in a whole different light than youth from more affluent areas.
On a day-to-day basis, the police harass, bully, and brutalize people from our communities and get away without being held to account for their actions. How can we accept having police in our schools to “build relations” with us if they are getting away with daily brutality and sometimes murder in our communities? (Anyone remember Alwy Al-Nadhir or Byron Debassige?) We have already experienced police (SRO) harrassment at Weston C.I. There was a conflict with two young women and the SRO used unnecessary and excessive force on the two young women. This incident was captured on video.
The effect of having police in schools is going to push more and more marginalized students out of school altogether, furthering the divide between youth from financially-stable homes and communities and youth from working-class homes and communities. We cannot let this happen. We will not let this happen.
We want cops out of our schools!
If you are interested in becoming an organizer with the NO COPS campaign , please contact us at email@example.com.