by Vik Chechi-Ribeiro (NEU Black Members Organizing Forum)
The criminal justice system is institutionally racist. We know this because black people are more likely to die in custody, be stopped and searched, receive longer prison sentences and are over represented in children and adult prison populations.
The education system is institutionally racist. We know this because black children are more likely to be excluded, attain less than other cohorts, be under predicted at GCSE and A-levels and be victim to behaviour and other school policies.
Society is institutionally racist. We know this as half of black children are living in poverty, have less access to housing, secure employment, pay and are more likely to live in areas of deprivation. These market failures along racial lines have been highlighted during this coronavirus pandemic.
Therefore, it’s extremely worrying that the Greater Manchester Mayor is looking to expand the use of school-based police officers. Schools are places of learning where children should feel free to express themselves, make mistakes, reflect and grow. As our children return into schools, they need support not policing.
School-based police officers raise the possibility of the criminalisation of behaviour, students being stopped and searched, compilation of gang databases and surveillance of an already over policed group. Police officers have no place in schools and it’s not on educators to provide PR or relationship building for them.
It’s important to understand where the demand for police officers has come from. It’s a law and order response to a decade of austerity and an education system moving towards ‘zero-discipline’ approaches driven by exam results and league tables. I would suggest it’s much more effective to have increased funding and support for pastoral support, social workers, teacher training, restorative justice and independent student councils. And in the community campaigning for properly funded and access to housing, health, social care and secure employment.
As trade unionists, what can we do? As workers we should be seeking to transform education and society and assert our right to anti-racist spaces. It is for trade unionists to collectivise an issue and collectively bargain on issues of equality. It’s how we inspire our members and bring in wider layers of workers into the union.
Speak with your fellow union members and then your Headteacher on the role of school-based police officers. They may disagree with you but part of a democratic workplace is highlighting the issue and persuading others. The right to anti-racist workplaces isn’t a debate but it’s important we show leadership on the issue.
Our North West Black members organizing forum (NW BMOF) has produced a motion that you can use in schools to raise the matter with your members. If you need more information read and share Dr Remi John-Salisbury’s report for the Runnymede Trust titled’ Race and racism in secondary schools’. Finally follow and support Kids of Colour and Northern Police Monitoring Project who our union black members group are supporting.