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New Westminster school board ends police liaison program

Click to play video: 'Surrey School District has no plan to cancel school liaison program, despite moves in Vancouver and New Westminster' Surrey School District has no plan to cancel school liaison program, despite moves in Vancouver and New Westminster
While both the Vancouver and New Westminster School Districts have voted to get rid of their school liaison officer programs, that's not happening in Surrey. As Grace Ke reports, the Surrey School District says it has has a different system that has worked well in supporting and keeping students safe – Apr 28, 2021

The school board in New Westminster voted to remove police officers from schools.

School trustees met virtually on Tuesday night and voted to immediately halt their School Liaison Officer program due to concerns that armed officers could be disturbing to racialized or LGBTQ youth.

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
VSB’s school liaison program is coming to an end after months of debate – Apr 27, 2021

A letter from the board to the chief of the New Westminster police says cancellation of the program is not a reflection on the department or its staff.

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The letter says the board looks forward to working with the force to develop a new relationship.

Read more: Vancouver School Board votes to cancel liaison officer program

The decision came a day after the Vancouver School Board (VSB) became the first in B.C. to end its School Liaison Officer program. The board voted 8–1 on Monday night to phase out uniformed police officers from city schools by the end of June.

The VSB decision followed months of debate over the value of the partnership with police and concerns about the potential impact of uniformed police officers on student mental health.

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: 'Students support Vancouver school liaison officer program' Students support Vancouver school liaison officer program
Students support Vancouver school liaison officer program – Apr 10, 2021

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

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VSB said it has proposed a “new relationship” with police to develop “trauma-informed approaches to working with children and youth.”

Vancouver police Deputy Chief Fiona Wilson expressed disappointment over what she called a “political decision” by the school board.

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

“Although recent surveys have shown that the vast majority of students in Vancouver support having SLOs in schools due to positive experiences with them, we know there is work to do with gaining the trust and confidence of some students,” Wilson said.

“In recent months, the VPD strongly declared its desire to make changes to the SLO program, in collaboration with all stakeholders, to address the concerns that have been raised.”

— With files from The Canadian Press, Nadia Stewart and Simon Little

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