Hamilton trustees scrap police liaison program

News Jun 23, 2020 by Richard Leitner hamiltonnews.com

Hamilton public school trustees are terminating a police liaison program just two weeks after rejecting calls to merely suspend it to allow for a review.

The about face, approved by a 7-3 vote at a marathon June 22 virtual board meeting, acted on a unanimous recommendation from their human rights and equity community advisory committee.

It also came as students gathered outside Hamilton city hall to implore trustees to scrap the program, which critics say unfairly targeted Black, Indigenous and racialized students.

Board chair Alex Johnstone, who opposed suspending the program on June 8, said she consulted widely and reviewed the Toronto District School Board’s rationale for terminating a police program there before changing her mind.

She said although the Hamilton program was different — it didn’t place officers in schools — it makes some students feel unsafe, even if most are indifferent and a small percentage like police presence.

“It is incumbent upon us to have a duty to act to ensure that we have a safe and supportive school for all students. ‘Most students’ is not good enough,” Johnstone said.

“This is what leadership looks like. As an organization, it means listening to our communities, looking ourselves in the mirror, rolling up our sleeves to make change.”

Dundas trustee Paul Tut, who two weeks earlier called trustees opposed to suspending the program hypocritical, said he appreciated different viewpoints, but the choice came down to listening to students.

He said he’s confident a decision to still review the program and look for alternative ways to address gaps left by its termination will validate concerns it targeted and stigmatized racial and sexual minorities.

“Develop something new. A program that can actually work for students by putting them at the forefront, that will actually support them, that will lift them up, and a program that will truly, truly keep them safe,” Tut said.

“Push the program and its ugly past to where it belongs: in the dustbin of history.”

But Ward 5 trustee Carole Paikin Miller, who along with Mountain reps Kathy Archer and Becky Buck opposed termination, said many of her constituents say they feel safer having police visit schools.

She urged trustees to “not only hear one side” and said it’s in students’ and the community’s best interests to improve their relationship with police through reforms a review could bring.

“As a Jewish person with family members who are Holocaust survivors, I am well aware of the impact of racism,” Paikin Miller said. “My way has always been education, communication and legislation, not obliteration or cancellation,” she said.

“It would be easy if any time we didn’t like something we could just get rid of it, but it isn’t realistic or prudent for a society to live without law enforcement. Students and police need to learn to coexist.”

Both student trustees said voting against terminating the program was effectively voting against students, highlighting how divisive the program had become.

“We can’t be responsible for upholding a school system based on white supremacy as well as anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism,” said Ahona Mehdi, who attends Ancaster High School.

“Applauding policies and procedures that in no way reflect the practices in our schools and lived experiences of our Black students is useless.”

 

Hamilton trustees scrap police liaison program

Making most students feel safe not good enough, Johnstone says

News Jun 23, 2020 by Richard Leitner hamiltonnews.com

Hamilton public school trustees are terminating a police liaison program just two weeks after rejecting calls to merely suspend it to allow for a review.

The about face, approved by a 7-3 vote at a marathon June 22 virtual board meeting, acted on a unanimous recommendation from their human rights and equity community advisory committee.

It also came as students gathered outside Hamilton city hall to implore trustees to scrap the program, which critics say unfairly targeted Black, Indigenous and racialized students.

Board chair Alex Johnstone, who opposed suspending the program on June 8, said she consulted widely and reviewed the Toronto District School Board’s rationale for terminating a police program there before changing her mind.

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She said although the Hamilton program was different — it didn’t place officers in schools — it makes some students feel unsafe, even if most are indifferent and a small percentage like police presence.

“It is incumbent upon us to have a duty to act to ensure that we have a safe and supportive school for all students. ‘Most students’ is not good enough,” Johnstone said.

“This is what leadership looks like. As an organization, it means listening to our communities, looking ourselves in the mirror, rolling up our sleeves to make change.”

Dundas trustee Paul Tut, who two weeks earlier called trustees opposed to suspending the program hypocritical, said he appreciated different viewpoints, but the choice came down to listening to students.

He said he’s confident a decision to still review the program and look for alternative ways to address gaps left by its termination will validate concerns it targeted and stigmatized racial and sexual minorities.

“Develop something new. A program that can actually work for students by putting them at the forefront, that will actually support them, that will lift them up, and a program that will truly, truly keep them safe,” Tut said.

“Push the program and its ugly past to where it belongs: in the dustbin of history.”

But Ward 5 trustee Carole Paikin Miller, who along with Mountain reps Kathy Archer and Becky Buck opposed termination, said many of her constituents say they feel safer having police visit schools.

She urged trustees to “not only hear one side” and said it’s in students’ and the community’s best interests to improve their relationship with police through reforms a review could bring.

“As a Jewish person with family members who are Holocaust survivors, I am well aware of the impact of racism,” Paikin Miller said. “My way has always been education, communication and legislation, not obliteration or cancellation,” she said.

“It would be easy if any time we didn’t like something we could just get rid of it, but it isn’t realistic or prudent for a society to live without law enforcement. Students and police need to learn to coexist.”

Both student trustees said voting against terminating the program was effectively voting against students, highlighting how divisive the program had become.

“We can’t be responsible for upholding a school system based on white supremacy as well as anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism,” said Ahona Mehdi, who attends Ancaster High School.

“Applauding policies and procedures that in no way reflect the practices in our schools and lived experiences of our Black students is useless.”

 

Hamilton trustees scrap police liaison program

Making most students feel safe not good enough, Johnstone says

News Jun 23, 2020 by Richard Leitner hamiltonnews.com

Hamilton public school trustees are terminating a police liaison program just two weeks after rejecting calls to merely suspend it to allow for a review.

The about face, approved by a 7-3 vote at a marathon June 22 virtual board meeting, acted on a unanimous recommendation from their human rights and equity community advisory committee.

It also came as students gathered outside Hamilton city hall to implore trustees to scrap the program, which critics say unfairly targeted Black, Indigenous and racialized students.

Board chair Alex Johnstone, who opposed suspending the program on June 8, said she consulted widely and reviewed the Toronto District School Board’s rationale for terminating a police program there before changing her mind.

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She said although the Hamilton program was different — it didn’t place officers in schools — it makes some students feel unsafe, even if most are indifferent and a small percentage like police presence.

“It is incumbent upon us to have a duty to act to ensure that we have a safe and supportive school for all students. ‘Most students’ is not good enough,” Johnstone said.

“This is what leadership looks like. As an organization, it means listening to our communities, looking ourselves in the mirror, rolling up our sleeves to make change.”

Dundas trustee Paul Tut, who two weeks earlier called trustees opposed to suspending the program hypocritical, said he appreciated different viewpoints, but the choice came down to listening to students.

He said he’s confident a decision to still review the program and look for alternative ways to address gaps left by its termination will validate concerns it targeted and stigmatized racial and sexual minorities.

“Develop something new. A program that can actually work for students by putting them at the forefront, that will actually support them, that will lift them up, and a program that will truly, truly keep them safe,” Tut said.

“Push the program and its ugly past to where it belongs: in the dustbin of history.”

But Ward 5 trustee Carole Paikin Miller, who along with Mountain reps Kathy Archer and Becky Buck opposed termination, said many of her constituents say they feel safer having police visit schools.

She urged trustees to “not only hear one side” and said it’s in students’ and the community’s best interests to improve their relationship with police through reforms a review could bring.

“As a Jewish person with family members who are Holocaust survivors, I am well aware of the impact of racism,” Paikin Miller said. “My way has always been education, communication and legislation, not obliteration or cancellation,” she said.

“It would be easy if any time we didn’t like something we could just get rid of it, but it isn’t realistic or prudent for a society to live without law enforcement. Students and police need to learn to coexist.”

Both student trustees said voting against terminating the program was effectively voting against students, highlighting how divisive the program had become.

“We can’t be responsible for upholding a school system based on white supremacy as well as anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism,” said Ahona Mehdi, who attends Ancaster High School.

“Applauding policies and procedures that in no way reflect the practices in our schools and lived experiences of our Black students is useless.”