The Surrey School District has not discussed pulling police officers out of schools with its board of trustees, its spokeswoman said Wednesday.
This is after the Vancouver Police Department issued a press release Tuesday saying its “very disappointed” that the Vancouver School Police Board has decided to remove school liaison officers from Vancouver’s schools, capping off a program that’s been in place nearly 50 years.
“This decision leaves a big gap in relationship building between officers, students and staff and also decreases safety for youth and staff in schools. In addition, the decision impacts the direct interaction and mentorship police provide to keep youth safe – like keeping them away from gangs and educating them on staying safe online,” Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Wilson, of the VPD, stated in the press release.
Surrey School District spokeswoman Ritinder Matthew told the Now-Leader that “we (the district) value our school teams and any such move would be a matter that required careful consideration.
“Our district is committed to ensuring that our schools are safe spaces for all students, staff and parents in our school community, and we always work to ensure that every child has a caring adult in a building that they can reach out to for support,” Matthew said. “This includes school counselors, vice-principals or principals.”
Surrey RCMP Sergeant Elenore Sturko said the local school liaison program has been tailor-made for Surrey and is “designed to meet our community needs,” such as the family and youth resource support team.
“The RCMP is part of a multidisciplinary team that police are just one aspect of the strategy that is in place here. It’s a partnership between educators, counsellors and police so what we bring to the table to address some of our unique challenges here are things that are based on our experience as police,” Sturko said.
“So, being able to identify things like risk factors for criminal behaviour. We are trying very hard to work with our schools and partners to help keep kids away from a criminal lifestyle, including recruitment into the gang lifestyle.”
Sturko said that despite what’s happening in other cities, the Surrey RCMP “obviously as police want to continue our partnership, we see value in it, but those decisions also would rest with the school district and other stakeholders who are the ones that entered into this partnership and it’s their decision as educators, in consultation with their stakeholders, what would be appropriate so it’s really for them to speak to that.”