(File Photo)

Following a review of police liaison officers presence in Greater Victoria schools, the teachers’ association and VicPD are not seeing eye to eye.

On Monday, March 13th, the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association (GVTA) brought a letter of recommendation to School District 61’s Board of Education with the recommendation to end any and all School Police Liaison Officer (SPLO) programs.

GVTA’s point of view

Research was conducted by the BC Teachers’ Federation on the impacts police officers in schools have on marginalized teachers and students and their ability to feel safe in schools which took into consideration “numerous reports from organizations and civilian review committees” as well as recommendations from the BC Human Rights Commissioner to end SPLO programs. 

“Public conversations over the last several years have highlighted that Canada’s policing and criminal justice systems have been founded on and continue to perpetuate systemic racism,” reads the letter from Ilda Turcotte, President of the GVTA. 

“For our schools to take meaningful anti-racist action, we must not ignore this legacy, or the ongoing harm caused by police.”

The letter continues to highlight the ways in which SPLOs’ presence in schools could specifically be harmful to students that are Indigenous, Black, People of Colour, 2SLGBTQIA+, and people with disabilities.

In addition to this, the letter highlights that as school funding has been slashed over the last several years and teachers are largely left with inadequate resources to effectively do their work. Police budgets, specifically VicPD’s budget, have risen and make up a significant portion  of Victoria’s yearly expenses.

According to the GVTA, because of this imbalance, oftentimes SPLOs are shoehorned into roles in which they are forced to aid student councillors when the officers do not have adequate training to help in these roles.

The GVTA are calling for social funding to replace the presence of SPLOs in schools.

“The presence of SPLO’s not only harms many marginalized students, but also does nothing to solve the broader systemic issues caused by underfunding and austerity,” wrote Turcotte. 

“For this reason, in addition to ending the SPLO program, our district needs to provide fully funded academic, social, health, and emotional support services in schools, enhance the rights of students and have clear and significant policy to govern any interaction schools may have with police.”

VicPD’s point of view

VicPD’s Chief, Del Manak wrote a letter to the public on March 15th as a rebuttal to the GVTA’s recommendation to end the SPLO programs in School District 61.

The police chief said in his letter that he refutes the claims made by the GVTA about the SPLOs’ presence in schools and called the GVTA’s remarks, “quite frankly, grossly inaccurate and do not reflect the local reality.”

“First, this letter implies that the SPLO Review Committee has recommended ending the SPLO program. I believe that review committee in fact put forward two options to consider: either to end the program or continue the program with changes,” wrote Chief Manak.

“Second, I would like to clarify the current role that police have in schools, as this letter paints a picture of officers surveilling students and patrolling hallways looking to make arrests, which is simply not true.”

Manak’s letter reflects the position of the police who want to try to create positive relationships with students, so that they will not fear police officers and will come to trust VicPD.

VicPD’s position is that by having SPLOs in schools, the children in the School District’s care will be protected and kept safe from issues such as sexual exploitation, sexual violence and gang recruitment — which is a rising concern to police throughout Greater Victoria.  

“We know that when youth have a positive relationship with a trusted adult, they are more likely to disclose these activities, helping us take action to end criminal behavior aimed at youth,” wrote Chief Manak. 

The third item on the police chief’s letter of rebuttal to the GVTA is the “generalized stereotypes, outdated perceptions and sweeping prejudice against police” that the teachers’ association inferred. 

“I find this extremely offensive,” wrote Chief Manak.

“One critical point in both this letter, and the BC Human Rights Commissioner’s letter that it references, is the acknowledged lack of Canadian research around the impact of SPLOs in schools.” 

“There is very little research that reflects the reality of our communities, our relationships and our justice system, and the recommendations in this letter are based on information that is inaccurate to our experiences.”

To conclude his letter, Chief Manak brought up his own experiences as a BIPOC mana and a parent in Victoria. He said that from his personal experiences, the GVTA’s comments were unfounded on what the BIPOC community and parents in Victoria want. 


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