Parents hold rally outside SD61 offices to call for return of school liaison officers

Parents hold rally outside SD61 offices to call for return of school liaison officers
Protesters held a rally in front of the Greater Victoria School District on March 14, 2024.

On Thursday, parents gathered outside of the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) offices to hold a rally to call for the return of school liaison officers.

Calls for the return of the program have been growing since Victoria Police said gangs have been trying to recruit kids from schools.

READ PREVIOUS: Unprecedented gang recruitment happening in Greater Victoria schools, says counsellor

Victoria and Saanich police do not have data to suggest that criminal activity or gang recruitment has spiked after the school liaison officers were removed from schools, but parents are still concerned.

Victoria Police have not provided school liaison officers since 2018, when a budget shortfall meant the officers that would have otherwise been assigned to those roles were redeployed to the front lines.

Then in June 2023, the SD61 board voted to end the school police liaison program in all schools, after a committee of 21 members from community, school and police organizations recommended their removal.

READ PREVIOUS: SD 61 board unanimously votes to end school police liaison program

On March 11, Saanich council wrote to the SD61 board, asking for school liaison officers to be reinstated, but with unspecified modifications. B.C.’s premier, solicitor general and education minister have all been supportive of reinstating the program.

On the other hand, B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner has called for school police liaison programs to be ended across the province, saying there is no evidence that liaison officers are necessary for school and community safety. Instead, she argues, the presence of police has a negative impact on marginalized students.

READ PREVIOUS: Human Rights Commissioner calls for an end to police officer program in B.C. schools

The final decision on the matter is in the hands of the SD61 board, which has been very quiet on the matter, only issuing a statement saying the district continues to work with police to address safety concerns, including gang recruitment.

-With files from CHEK’s Kori Sidaway

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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