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Vancouver trustee emphasizes need to hear from white students on school liaison officer future

Last Updated Jun 24, 2020 at 1:07 am PST

(Kenny Mason, NEWS 1130 Photo)

A Vancouver School Board trustee says white students should be consulted on the future of officers in schools

'Caucasian kids are actually the visible minority,' Trustee Fraser Ballantyne said, adding their input is important

VSB voted on Monday to review role of officers in Vancouver schools

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Police officers will remain in Vancouver’s public schools, for now.

Trustees voted Monday night to have an independent third party take another look at the role of school liaison officers, which have been a focal point in the ongoing conversation about race and policing.

However, while much of the conversation has been around how school liaison officers make students of colour feel, one trustee emphasized the need to hear from white students, in particular.

“You know, when you look at it, the Caucasian kids are actually the visible minority, so, when we get a sense from the population of our secondary schools and winter schools I think it’s really important to hear what they have to say about it, and their feelings of the relationships that have been developed over the years,” Fraser Ballantyne, one of six trustees to vote down a motion to immediately remove officers from schools, said Monday.

“I think a number of trustees would be very surprised at the value of what their connectedness is to this program.”

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It was argued that while several students — especially in the Black and Indigenous communities — don’t feel safe having police officers in the hallways, other students like having them there.

“I worry that we could bring a sudden change that will have a sudden impact on many students,” Janet Fraser, another trustee, said.

The upcoming review will seek input from local First Nations, Black Lives Matter Vancouver, parent groups, and students district-wide.

A school Board in Hamilton, Ontario recently voted to end its partnership with police, something the Toronto District School Board did in 2017.

Ballantyne believes the Peel School Board “took a ton of time” in its review of school liaison officers.

“I guess it’s that time period, it might not just be for three months or four months, it could be for a year, I don’t know, whatever, and I would like to maybe hear a little bit more about that because it’s kind of scary for me to, we don’t even know what we’re actually doing when we say we’re going to suspend it until the completion of review,” he said ahead of the vote. “That could be a long time.”

A motion to suspend the School Liaison Officer Program while the review is underway was defeated.

Other trustees like Estrellita Gonzalez believe Vancouver needs its own solution, stressing this city is different from others like Toronto and those in the U.S.

“Many have shared how the (student liaison officers) have supported them and made a difference in their lives,” Gonzalez said Monday, adding it’s important to hear from all students and that she would be happy with either outcome, if it was what pupils actually wanted.

-With files from Tarnjit Parmar