British Columbia

Doors remain locked at Salmon Arm schools after anti-vaccine protest

The doors of many public schools in Salmon Arm, B.C., will remain locked Tuesday but the school district says it has lifted "hold and secure'' measures in place since an anti-vaccine protest last week.

'Hold and secure' measures lifted but district encouraging schools to restrict entry

Protests first took place at the School District 83 office, pictured here, before anti-vaccine protesters showed up at schools in Salmon Arm, B.C., on Friday. (Google Maps)

The doors of several public schools in Salmon Arm, B.C., remained locked Tuesday out of concern for the safety of staff and students after an anti-vaccine protest in the small Interior city last week.

The Salmon Arm School District says it has lifted "hold and secure'' measures in place Friday, when anti-vaccine protesters entered three different school buildings.

A scheduled professional development day kept students out of class Monday, but school doors stayed locked as a precaution. Parents and other adults who need to enter the school must phone ahead to make an appointment to be let in. 

The mother of an eight-year-old student at a Salmon Arm school said she feels more comfortable with the doors to her child's school locked, knowing strangers can't get into the building. 

CBC has agreed not to identify her or her child, out of concern for their safety. 

"[The protesters] didn't even have kids that attended that school, so to have them enter a school where they don't even have children that attend is just an overstep, for sure," she said.

She supports the idea of bubble zones — also called protest zones or buffer zones — around hospitals and schools to keep people safe.

"I'm fine with everyone's right to protest, but do it in appropriate spaces," she said.

Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison says protests at Salmon Arm schools were 'way out of line.' (CBC News)

The district says it has encouraged schools to keep main entry points locked, especially in elementary schools.

The statement from district superintendent Donna Kriger says that, where possible, more supervision will be added to playgrounds during recess and noon hours.

Kriger said last week that the school district would work with the RCMP to ensure demonstrators are not allowed on school property.

'Way over the line'

Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison, who was a principal in the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District for 29 years, said staff at the schools did everything right to keep their students safe. He described locking the doors at schools as unfortunate, but necessary.

"It's way over the line," he said. 

"There's a place and a time and a process for showing your discontent. But schools and hospitals are not the places."

B.C. Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside encourages anyone with concerns about COVID-19 vaccines or vaccine cards to contact local politicians, rather than protest outside schools.

"There is absolutely no reason for anyone to be demonstrating or protesting at a school, for going onto school property and interfering with children's ability to learn for any reason," she said. 

"I'm appalled at the behaviour." 

With files from Susana da Silva and The Canadian Press

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