Greater Victoria school board resists calls to reinstate police officers in schools

Greater Victoria school board resists calls to reinstate police officers in schools
(Saanich Police Department/Facebook)
In February 2020, Saanich Police participated in a

Despite calls from some community members and local governments, the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) school board says it is not reinstating the School Police Liaison Officer (SPLO) program.

The school board ended the SPLO program in May 2023, saying the decision was based on “the evolving needs of students” as well as to protect students’ rights.

The board added that there were concerns about the ambiguity of the role SPLO officers played in schools, as well as a lack of oversight for officers.

“The board of education’s decision means that police will not be used to provide student services that should be provided by appropriately trained, qualified and regulated professionals such as district leadership, principals, teachers, educational assistants, counsellors, youth and family counsellors, social workers or health care professionals,” said the school district in a release Friday.

The school board says it made its decision in 2023 after two-and-a-half years of engagement with local school trustees, police liaison officers, union members, the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, local First Nations, SD61 students and more.

It also says it has ongoing discussions with police boards in Greater Victoria about safety in schools.

RELATED: Victoria motion to send letter asking for school liaison officers to be reinstated narrowly passes

Calls for reinstatement

Not everyone is supportive of the decision to remove school police liaison officers, however.

In March, parents held a rally outside the SD61 administrative offices calling for the board to reinstate the SPLO program.

In the past two months, municipal councils in Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay have also all written letters to the SD61 school board calling for the reinstatement of school police liaison officers.

Earlier this month, B.C. Education Minister Rachna Singh also said she would like to see the program back.

“The safety of students and staff is paramount, and it has been communicated to the board, the decision that was made by the board, of our expectation – that they listen to all the concerns that have been raised,” Singh said.

The school board maintains that most responsibilities carried out by SPLOs would be better suited for trained workers who come from the education or counselling fields, and that the exact role of SPLOs in schools was never specified.

It echoed concerns raised by B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner in 2022, that called for all school districts in the province to end their SPLO programs because of their potential harms on marginalized students – like people of colour – adding that school police liaison officers can add a sense of “criminalization and surveillance in schools,” based on research out of the U.S.

“Out of respect for the rights of our students, I strongly recommend that all school districts end the use of [SPLOs] until the impact of these programs can be established empirically,” said B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender in 2022.

In its statement Friday, the school board said it continues to speak with police through “appropriate formal channels” and that “police continue to play a key role in keeping our school communities safe.”

The school district also released an FAQ page on the SPLO program.

READ MORE: Pressure on Victoria trustees to return school police liaison officers

With files from CHEK’s Mary Griffin

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