B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner calls for an end to the School Liaison Officer program

B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner is pushing for an end to the School Liaison Officer (SLO) program in schools.

In a recommendation directed to the British Columbia School Trustees Association, commissioner Kasari Govender is asking for school districts not to reinstate the cancelled program.

This comes as some districts plan to bring officers back into the classrooms, something which was disbanded in 2021.

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Govender says she is specifically concerned about the potential negative outcomes for marginalized students.

She says that unless school districts can prove why police officers should be in schools, she recommends putting a stop to the programs.

“Unless, and until, there is sufficient research to show the value of these programs, putting the interests, and needs, and perspectives of racialized children and their families…at the center of our research.” she said.

Govender adds there is not enough evidence in support of the programs.

Vancouver School Board Pride Staircase Office Generic VSB

The Vancouver School Board is meeting on Monday to vote on the return of School Liaison Officer program. (CityNews Image)

“We don’t see a strong case for keeping them…while we do have a lack of research in Canada, we have enough to show that the damages could be very real and very significant, and we know that the U.S. evidence shows that the harms that can fall from these programs,” she said.

But many of the newly elected members of The Vancouver School Board (VSB) have vowed the bring the program back.

The programs have been a topic of contention for some time and have resurfaced again as the ABC party claimed the majority of the school board in Vancouver.

Although the party campaigned with plans to restore the program, a statement from the school board says the board has scheduled a meeting set for next week with plans to vote on the topic.

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“The Board and District staff deeply respect the advocacy role of the Commissioner’s office and remain committed to upholding the BC Human Rights Code. The Board will make its considerations (meeting scheduled for Monday) in light of all information received and remains committed to fostering safe, welcoming and inclusive learning environments for students and staff,” a statement from the VSB said.

But Govender says regardless of the outcome, there are protections in place for marginalized groups.

“The majority doesn’t get to overrule the human rights of those in the minority,” she said. “We have human rights protections to protect the minorities among us.”

With files from Kurtis Doering and Charlie Carey

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