Kind Space wholehearted supports direct investment into the health and wellbeing of young people.
Earlier this month the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) voted to reallocate funding for School Resource Officers (SROs) in Ridgemont and Gloucester High Schools and direct the $96,000 towards the Urban and Priority High School Framework (1). Essentially the OCDSB made the decision to invest directly into connecting students with community support and programs, instead of the police service. This decision did not remove students’ ability to access SROs or remove funding for the SRO program as a whole.
What this decision did, in a small but important way, affirmed that responses to trauma, particularly from young people, cannot be addressed through the lens of criminalization. The OCDSB did their due diligence in prioritizing funding for access to things like a part-time nurse, homework clubs, food programs, addiction support, and other essential community services.
As an organization, Kind Space serves a diverse range of 2SLGBTQ+ communities in Ottawa, providing a soft landing place, especially for young people, with a variety of experiences and backgrounds. Many of the young people at Kind Space are subjected to mental, emotional, and physical abuse and violence in their homes and communities related to their queer and trans identities. This type of trauma impacts our ability to see ourselves as inherently good, joyful, loving people with value and purpose. Young people deemed to have “behavioural problems” and those whom we often describe as “acting out” are reacting to systems of injustice and the absence of kind, loving, and appropriate attention by the adults in their lives. The answer is not to put them in direct contact with a punitive system (2) but to connect them with a caring and properly resourced community of people and peers.
Our focus must always be on the safety and wellbeing of young people. We must take the necessary and difficult steps to tackle systemic racism in our schools. We must focus our efforts on addressing the realities of unsafe homes, insufficient access to food (3), lack of access to trauma-informed mental health and addictions counselling, mediation, and more. Neither police nor the criminal justice system will guarantee or improve the safety of our young people or our schools (4). For these reasons, we applaud the reallocation of OCDSB funding from SROs into the Urban and Priority High Schools Framework. Investing in caring support systems and connecting young people to services is essential to helping them thrive in their student lives.
Executive Director, Kind Space
Information linked in statement:
- CBC article “OCDSB defunds police officers at 2 urban schools” – https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-schools-police-officers-budget-cut-1.5686412
- CBC article “Teen girl says she feared for her life during OPP arrest” – https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/teen-feared-life-opp-arrest-1.5660627
- Guernica article “Karen Washington: It’s Not a Food Desert, It’s Food Apartheid” – https://www.guernicamag.com/karen-washington-its-not-a-food-desert-its-food-apartheid/
- Vox article “4 ideas to replace traditional police officers” – https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/2020/6/24/21296881/unbundle-defund-the-police-george-floyd-rayshard-brooks-violence-european-policing?fbclid=IwAR2gFoeqyXmeKrWhe_sT-yDtPhK5H-JtbIVAx2D0p689UcW4ZMeIKi3tHRE