Police officers may be barred from Vancouver elementary schools after teachers’ motion

Vancouver police cruisers outside VPD headquarters. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Bayne Stanley

The Vancouver Elementary Teachers’ Association (VESTA) passed a motion Tuesday night that recommends Vancouver police and RCMP officers no longer attend school events.

It also calls on the association’s members to no longer plan or attend events where VPD or RCMP officers are invited until “both organizations take clear steps to address the disproportionate repression of people of colour, including Black and Indigenous people.”

“Our Association acknowledges that this racism isn’t new, but recent events have highlighted the inequity faced by Black, Indigenous people and people of colour (BIPOC) and the need for local and global solidarity with those impacted most by inequities in the policing, education, judicial and medical system,” said VESTA president Jill Barclay in a statement.

“This has prompted recent discussions about our own structures as a union working with BIPOC members and students.”

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VESTA is advocating for a discussion at the school and district level about the presence of the VPD and RCMP in elementary schools.

This motion allows representatives to go back to each individual school and decide how each school will move forward.

The Vancouver School Board said it’s aware of the motion.

“There will be ongoing discussions with all District stakeholders as together, everyone works to further advance safe, welcoming and inclusive schools for students, their families and staff,” VSB said in a statement.

The Vancouver Secondary Teachers’ Association said it’s had similar discussions but to date, nothing has been formally adopted.

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The Vancouver Police Department said it can’t comment on the association’s vote, but the department’s school liaison officers engage daily with the students and make the schools a safe and inclusive place for students to learn.

“While we certainly do investigations and ‘law enforcement,’ our focus is on ‘public safety’ and student/staff engagement,” said VPD spokesperson Cst. Tania Visintin.

The BC RCMP could not comment, a spokesperson said, as it was not yet aware of the decision.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education said there is no place for racism, discrimination or intolerance in B.C.  and that local schools make decisions about police liaison officers in schools.

“This speaks to the broader need for increased anti-racism work in schools and throughout our communities,” the ministry said in a statement.

VESTA said it looks forward to having conversations with all stakeholders.

“VESTA staff representatives also discussed the issue of police officers at school events and the work that needs to be done around diversity and systemic racism,” it said in a statement.

“We will be discussing the motions passed by the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association with Vancouver teachers, the employer, and the community through the processes and structures we have access to.”

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