Over the past few months, many of you have reached out to share your thoughts about the School Liaison Officer (SLO) program in Vancouver schools. The SLO program involves 17 Vancouver Police Officers and 1 RCMP Officer who are funded by the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP, and have office space in 18 secondary schools. They interact with upwards of 48,000 children in their daily K-12 education.
I am writing to provide an update and tell you more about how you can have your voice heard on this issue.
Back in June 2020, I voted to suspend the SLO program. I listened to hundreds of parents and students describe how having police officers in school made them feel less, not more, safe. I had serious concerns about the presence of police in schools undermining the Access Without Fear guidelines (pdf) for families with uncertain immigration status, the VSB’s affirmation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the history of policing failures for Indigenous and Black students and families.
The VSB did not suspend the program and instead proceeded with an external review of the program. A report from that review is scheduled to come back to the Vancouver School Board Policy and Governance Committee on March 3 (TODAY). I look forward to hearing that review with an open mind even though I am deeply concerned with the lack of transparency and accessibility in the review process.
The trustees will discuss the report at the March 8 School Board meeting. I’ll be looking for trustees around the table to listen to young people’s voices, especially Black and Indigenous students. I will be calling on trustees to do more than pay lip service to anti-racism and success for each student - I will be looking for them to do the harder work of actually living up to those commitments. For more on this topic, read this excellent op-ed by Jamie Smallboy, Krista Sigurdson and Kyla Epstein.
Join me in holding the VSB accountable
- The Trustees need to hear from students, parents, and community members as this report is heard and considered. We also need to be held to our highest values of equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
- If you are a parent, student, or former student with something important to say about the SLO program, sign up to speak to the VSB on March 8. The deadline is noon, March 5th and you can find out how to sign up here.
- If you are on a PAC, talk to your PAC about the SLO program and the review. Vancouver teachers (VESTA) and district parent reps (DPAC) have taken a position in favour of cancelling the school liaison officer (SLO) program and have provided feedback in the consultation process.
- Email the trustees to speak out on the SLO program, any concerns you have about the review process, and the values you’ll be looking for them to uphold.
- Watch the March 3 Policy and Governance Committee meeting (5:00 pm TODAY) and the March 8 School Board meeting (7 pm) (request by noon on Friday March 5th) . Links to livestreams are posted on the VSB Twitter page as well as through their online calendar.
Want to learn more?
- The Cops out of Schools group speaks out on this issue on Twitter and Instagram and has calls to action.
- The Tyee has covered the Vancouver SLO program. Read Katie Hyslop’s articles here and here.
- I participated in a webinar called The Case for Police-Free Schools. You can watch it here.
All the best,