The news that Student Resource Officers (SROs) are being removed in schools across this province was news I welcomed.
The province has responded to the evidence that these positions, while described as opportunities for relationship building with students, in practice, disproportionately criminalize youth of colour. Practices that result in a school-to-prison pipeline for racialized students, however unintentional, must be stopped.
Yet, conflict and violence in schools must be effectively prevented and addressed.
Kids can’t learn when they don’t feel safe and teachers deserve to feel safe at work. Educational institutions have the option to utilize restorative justice practices to prevent and respond to conflict, discrimination and other forms of harm. Many boards have already been doing this for years with success.
Restorative justice is designed to foster more meaningful accountability than punitive measure can deliver. These practitioners, using a victim-centred framework, have tools and skills to foster accountability-building and support reparations where possible.
The police can always be called in cases of requiring an emergency response, but the majority of conflict and harm in schools can be addressed in ways that teach our kids about responsibility, respect and their duty to their school community to make things right.
As many high schools and post-secondary intuitions across Canada are moving in this direction, my hope is our local school boards will seize this opportunity to follow suit.