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Vancouver school trustee faces calls to resign after controversial comments during liaison officer debate

Last Updated Jun 25, 2020 at 6:32 am PST

(Kenny Mason, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Vancouver school trustee apologizes for controversial comments made during meeting on school liaison officer future

Elementary school teachers' association says Fraser Ballantyne's apology isn't enough; group calls for his resignation

Ballantyne under fire for saying Caucasian kids are actually the visible minority, they need to be consulted on SLOs

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Despite apologizing, a Vancouver School Board trustee is facing calls to resign, following controversial comments he made earlier this week while discussing the future of police officers in schools.

The Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association says Fraser Ballantyne’s comments indicate a significant lack of awareness to the systemic nature of racism in the school system.

In an open letter to Ballantyne, VESTA says he has a responsibility to students, families, teachers, and citizens, which includes educating himself about racism and colonialism, and “about the differential ways that Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour experience the school system.”

On Monday, Ballantyne said Caucasian kids are actually the visible minority, a comment that didn’t go over well with everyone.

“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,” Ballantyne, one of six trustees to vote down a motion to immediately remove officers from schools, said at the Monday meeting.

On Tuesday, Ballantyne apologized on Twitter for what he had said, writing, “My comments were in NO way intended to detract from the importance of hearing from the Black, Indigenous & other racialized students & communities. I sincerely apologize to those who were offended by my comments regarding the SLO [program].”

He further wrote that his “intention was to ensure we hear all perspectives about the SLO program—most importantly those of our great diversity of students in our schools. I have always been committed to an education system that is free of racism & discrimination.”

The VESTA statement in response to his post says his apology isn’t enough.

“We are not satisfied by your subsequent statement that you understand the severity and significance of your comments and the impact on the whole school community, and that these comments have contributed to the creation and maintenance of unsafe schools and communities for BIPOC students, staff and families,” VESTA writes.

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

It urges Ballantyne to listen to the voices of BIPOC and other marginalized youth who choose to “speak up and raise concerns about aspects of the system” he supervises as a school trustee.

“…and consider carefully your responsibility to the students whose education is in your care, and the care of all Vancouver School Trustees.”

The Vancouver School Board 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.

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.

Meanwhile, some trustees have pointed out the positive impact school liaison officers have had on many students.