Long-serving trustee Donna Blackburn wants to bring a police presence back to schools within Ottawa's largest school board, but her fellow trustees have voted to kick that conversation down the road indefinitely.
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) got rid of the Student Resource Officer program (SRO) last year after community members complained the program had been harmful to BIPOC and gender-oppressed students.
Blackburn, who wanted to keep the SRO program, moved a motion at the meeting of the board of trustees on Tuesday night that sought for the OCDSB to "engage in discussions with the Ottawa Police Service to establish standard of practice that allow for police support to schools."
The motion did not specifically seek a return of student resource officers, but Blackburn said the board needed to help school administrators who, as she claims, can only "call 911" if they need police support.
"This is not working for our students, this is not working for our staff, this is not working for our communities," Blackburn told her colleagues at the meeting.
Conversations already happening, says director
OCDSB Director of Education Camille Williams-Taylor responded to Blackburn by saying conversations are happening regarding police and serving schools, and she understands the frustration principals may be feeling.
Some trustees, meanwhile, argued the motion was pointless because the decision around the SRO program was only recently made. Trustee Christine Boothby put forward a motion to defer Blackburn's motion indefinitely.
"This motion is not needed and it is doing nothing but causing hurt again to this community that we did issue an apology for," she said.
Boothby also pointed out the original motion to dissolve the SRO program asked the board to work with police and community groups "that experience discrimination and oppression to work collectively through a process that's guided by the human rights based approach on improving services and response and supports for youth and in crisis."
Boothby's motion passed easily.
Delegates speak down new motion
Delegate Sam Hersh, a lawyer and advocate, told the board of trustees "there's no reason to vote differently" on this new motion.
"Remember the stories you heard from racialized students who shared their trauma with you, remember those experiences and let those again guide your decision today," he said.
Hailey Dash from the Asilu Collective, a group created to end the school resource officer program in Ottawa, took issue with the motion's wording that linked "the safety of our students and staff" and police.
"What trustee Blackburn means is that this is an illusion of safety for students who aren't being targeted and criminalized by cops in your schools," Dash said.
She said schools can address safety by focusing on issues like poverty and mental health, which do not require police.
"School safety cannot be enhanced by policing. This is a racist lie that cannot be perpetuated," Dash said.