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HWDSB ends program that brought police officers into schools

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) ended its relationship with Hamilton police’s liaison program on Monday after a number of advocates in the city called for the board to terminate the program. 

Local students and community members in the group HWDSB Kids Need Help hosted a sit-in during a HWDSB meeting last night. 

An area of Main Street outside City Hall was shut down by police as about 100 protesters marched and chanted in favour of ending the school resource officer (SRO) program and defunding the police. 

Board trustees voted to abolish the SRO program in favour of finding an alternative as a replacement during the meeting.

It was originally agreed to review the program during a board meeting on June 8th. A report was going to be submitted by October 2020, but the issue was moved forward on the agenda only to be completely terminated. 

“This motion to terminate is for Black students. The motion is for Indigenous students, Latino students, Muslim students. LGBTQ2+ students. Marginalized students and any student that has felt less than welcome at our schools because of a police presence,” said Cam Galindo, trustee for Wards 9 and 10 during a live stream of the vote.

The SRO program was funded by the Hamilton police service, which supported six different officers at 38 different secondary schools and five officers in a partnership with 158 elementary schools. 

Officers in the program fostered crime prevention against and committed by young people. Liaison officers would visit schools and conduct presentations on subjects such as personal safety, social media, human trafficking, internet safety, bullying, vaping, and cyber-bullying. 

In 2019, officers made 2,496 visits to Hamilton schools including 838 investigations and 455 presentations. 

Ward 7 trustee and vice chair Dawn Danko said the program should be replaced with an initiative that identifies the gaps for students, staff, and community. 

This decision comes amid calls to defund the police service in Hamilton and reallocate city funding to various community programs and initiatives instead.

Lead photo courtesy of @HWDSBKids.

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