School division in Winnipeg ending program that brings police officers into school

The Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) is ending the program that brings police officers to work in its schools.

On Wednesday, the LRSD said the board made the decision to discontinue the School Resource Officer (SRO) program at a meeting on Tuesday.

"The decision was informed by the voices of students, staff, families," LRSD superintendent Christian Michalik told CTV News.

He said even though the program is ending, the division acknowledges its ongoing relationship with Winnipeg police.

One officer has worked across the division's 40 schools since 2016. The board said people in the school community raised concerns about inequity and racism not only in the program but in the education system as a whole.

The board voted to use the money spent on the SRO program on a diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism initiative.

"This year, we're really going to try to tackle the issues of systemic racism in a big way, a proactive way," Michalik said. "So we intend to develop and implement an overarching policy."

The school division noted that its decision to end the SRO program was informed by students, staff and families, with the feedback focusing on people’s lived experiences.

Michalik said the feedback, specifically from those who are Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, highlighted issues of “ongoing inequity and systemic racism” in the school division.

“Despite genuine investments, efforts and commitments, we still have a lot of work to do to ensure all students thrive and flourish in our schools,” he said in a news release.

“That must be our focus moving forward.”

The division said it has been in contact with Equity Matters, which is a coalition of Indigenous and racialized/newcomer organizations, as well as groups that work with oppressed communities. Based on these conversations, the LRSD’s annual operating goals include creating a comprehensive strategy to address issues of systemic racism, and establish a diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism education office.

“Listening to the voices of our community in an equity-informed matter compels us to act with urgency to hasten work on our Multi-Year Strategic Plan priorities for 2019-2023 that address issues of systemic racism in a proactive, capacity building, and systematic way,” Michalik said.