Louis Riel division keeps police-in-schools program report under wraps

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The Louis Riel School Division has no plans to release a report on its police-in-schools program, which contains findings that prompted trustees to cancel the community policing initiative this week.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/10/2021 (353 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Louis Riel School Division has no plans to release a report on its police-in-schools program, which contains findings that prompted trustees to cancel the community policing initiative this week.

Facing pressure from families with concerns about how uniformed officers in schools affects marginalized students, the Winnipeg-based division hired an external researcher to conduct an equity-based review of its school resource officer program in early 2021.

University of Winnipeg instructor Fadi Ennab, an expert in anti-racism, undertook a mixed-methodology approach, including a community survey, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews with students who had experience with the program.

The Louis Riel School Division hired an external researcher to conduct an equity-based review of its school resource officer program in early 2021. The Winnipeg-based division has no plans to release a report on its police-in-schools program, which contains findings that prompted trustees to cancel the community policing initiative this week. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“We really did emphasize the voices of students, staff and families that identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour)… What they shared was that it wasn’t a positive lived experience — and so, we couldn’t ignore those voices,” said superintendent Christian Michalik, who recommended trustees discontinue the program at a meeting Tuesday evening.

During a phone call Thursday, Michalik said the board is not disclosing the report due to “confidentiality reasons” — a decision he indicated was made based on legal counsel advice.

Since 2002, the Winnipeg Police Service has been partnering with divisions to supply schools with uniformed officers whose duties include giving presentations on everything from bullying to drugs, undertaking truancy check-ins, and participating in threat assessments.

This time last year, 19 such officers worked in six divisions. There was one in LRSD, who has worked across its schools — of which there are currently 40 — since 2016.

Winnipeg School Division cut funding for its nine officers this year, citing budget restraints. On Tuesday, LRSD trustees followed suit, with a unanimous vote to redirect program monies to equity initiatives.

For months, Irene Bindi, a parent and vocal member of Police Free Schools Winnipeg, has been inquiring about the LRSD report.

“(LRSD leaders) pride themselves in transparency and being of a progressive nature, but even in terms of email responses, in terms of having an open-question period, there has been a real closure around this particular subject,” said Bindi, who was appointed to the division’s school resource officer management committee during the 2020-21 school year.

She said the review’s release is “extremely important” because it is invaluable research for other divisions assessing their police programs.

“They owe it to the Black, Indigenous, racialized and marginalized students and parents who participated in it, to release it,” Bindi added. “Their onus is to protect kids, not to protect the police.”

In a statement Thursday, police spokeswoman Ally Siatecki said WPS believes in the hard work and integrity of its school resource officers and remains committed to working with LRSD to increase safety and well-being.

Meantime, LRSD has announced plans to launch a diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism initiative.

According to the division, the new initiative will address ongoing inequities and systemic racism via: the creation of an anti-racism policy and action plan; ongoing curricula review protocols; professional development; an employment equity policy; and an annual accountability reporting process, among other items.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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