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Vancouver School Board votes to cancel liaison officer program

Click to play video: 'VSB’s school liaison program is coming to an end after months of debate' VSB’s school liaison program is coming to an end after months of debate
The Vancouver School Board has voted to end the school liaison officer program. As VSB Chair Carmen Cho discusses, the decision comes after months of debate about the merits of the program – Apr 27, 2021

The Vancouver School Board voted Monday night on the future of police officers in the classroom.

The  School Liaison Officer (SLO) program, which connects officers with the city’s elementary and secondary schools, has been under review following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

On Monday night the board voted to end the program at the end of this school year.

Click to play video: 'Future of Vancouver’s School Liaison Officer program up for debate as review heads back to trustees' Future of Vancouver’s School Liaison Officer program up for debate as review heads back to trustees
Future of Vancouver’s School Liaison Officer program up for debate as review heads back to trustees – Mar 6, 2021

Advocates said officers should be removed from the classroom because some students don’t feel safe.

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A review conducted by Argyle Communications found a “spectrum of experiences” with the program — both positive and negative,

While 61 per cent of respondents said the officers contributed to a sense of safety, that opinion was not shared by many Black and Indigenous students.

Click to play video: 'VSB discusses anti-racism motion at emotional meeting' VSB discusses anti-racism motion at emotional meeting
VSB discusses anti-racism motion at emotional meeting – Dec 5, 2019

Just 15 per cent of Black students agreed that officers helped foster a sense of safety, while 47 per cent of Indigenous students agreed.

People opposed to the presence of liaison officers in schools rallied outside VSB headquarters earlier this month.

Read more: ‘The badge, the gun, it’s sending a message,’ say student opponents of police in Vancouver schools

“We know that law enforcement represents a larger message in today’s society,” said Owen Ebose, a Grade 12 student from Burnaby who attended the rally.

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“The uniform, the badge, the gun, it’s sending a message … that that constable wasn’t there to provide mentorship or provide guidance, they were there to police us, they were there to intimidate us, they were there to scare us into conforming to what the schools are hoping to see from us.”

Vancouver police said the program, which has run since 1972 and is fully funded by the VPD, plays a role in crime prevention and safety, and helps break down barriers between young people and police.

— With files from Nadia Stewart and Simon Little

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