At the Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 5, the Board moved to discontinue the Winnipeg Police Service’s (WPS) School Resource Officer (SRO) program in the division. Since 2016, LRSD had one SRO working across its 40 schools each school year.
“Despite discontinuing the SRO program, LRSD acknowledges its ongoing relationship with the WPS,” said Christian Michalik, Superintendent. “We need to do our part to nurture a positive, constructive and productive relationship to ensure both our organizations best serve families in St. Vital and St. Boniface.”
The decision was informed by various stakeholders including students, staff, and families. The equity-based feedback focused on not only the lived experience in relation to the SRO program, but also in the public education system as a whole.
“Feedback from our community, specifically those who are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC), illuminated issues of ongoing inequity and systemic racism in LRSD,” said Michalik. “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. That must be our focus moving forward.”
The Board voted to reinvest the money spent on the SRO program, as well as additional funds and resources, into a division-wide Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) and Anti-Racism Initiative.
“Earlier last year, we considered a reimagining of the SRO program; but with finite resources, we really must focus on the work needed in our division and the existing barriers that create disparities,” said Michalik. “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.” The division has been in dialogue with Equity Matters – a coalition of Indigenous and racialized/newcomer organizations, along with groups that work with oppressed communities – for some time and was inspired by the group’s recommendations to see greater equity in public education. Based on dialogue with equity-seeking groups and the broader community LRSD serves, the division’s annual operating goals for the 2021-2022 school year include the following priorities:
- Bring together students, staff, and families to co-create the following elements of a comprehensive strategy to address issues of systemic racism in a proactive, capacity-building, and comprehensive way:
Establish a DEI and Anti-Racism Education Office to champion the work of addressing issues of systemic racism in a proactive, capacity-building, and comprehensive way
- Develop and implement an overarching DEI and Anti-Racism policy and action plan
- Develop and implement an on-going equity-based curricula review process to emphasize DEI, anti-racism, and decolonization
- Develop and implement a multi-year and equity-based professional learning plan focused on anti-racism/anti-oppression education, as well as, trauma-informed, reconciliation, and restorative practices
- Develop and implement an employment equity policy and action plan
- Continue to expand and improve equity-based outcomes data collection and analysis
- Start an annual equity accountability reporting process
“The work toward these goals has already begun in LRSD,” said Louise Johnston, Chair of the Board. “We are building on past efforts to address inequities and I truly look forward to the courageous journey ahead.”