New Westminster school board joins Vancouver in ending police liaison program
Program has been on hold while a review was underway
A second Metro Vancouver school board in as many days has voted to remove police from schools.
The New Westminster board's vote on Tuesday night puts an immediate end to the school district's child and youth liaison officer program and calls for a "redesign" of the relationship with the New Westminster Police Department.
The move was made in response to concerns about how police presence in schools affects students' mental health and well-being — particularly those who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour.
"As much as we seek a continued good relationship with the New Westminster Police Department … for myself and others, normalizing their presence in the school is unwelcome," trustee Mark Gifford said before voting in favour of the motion.
The vote came just one day after the Vancouver School Board voted to end its school liaison officer program, effective at the end of June.
The New Westminster program has been on hold for months after the board decided to conduct a review.
During a brief discussion of the matter on Tuesday night, trustee Mary Lalji took issue with that decision.
"This decision was made behind closed doors without public input and without any examination of the relationship our police liaison officers have had within our schools," she said.
"The implication was that this district believes all of our officers are bad cops. I would like to move forward with more of a thought-out process."
She cited a survey of students that suggested nearly 80 per cent support keeping officers in schools, and tried to introduce an amendment requiring consultation with the student body before any final decisions are made.
But Lalji could not find another trustee to second her amendment.
Board chair Gurveen Dhaliwal pointed out that the survey Lalji was referring to was only completed by 110 students out of nearly 7,000 in the district.
Dhaliwal said voting to remove officers from schools is not a reflection on the police department.
"I very much value the historic partnership we share," she said.
School district staff have been instructed to report back to the board at its June 8 meeting on plans for the future of that partnership.