Liaison Officer Program comes to an end
Dear students, parents and caregivers,
On behalf of the Board of Education, I wanted to reach out to share some news following last night’s Board Meeting.
As you know, the Child and Youth Liaison Officer program has been on hold throughout this school year, as we have been reviewing the program and long-standing partnership – as it related to the three officers who had previously worked across all of our schools.
Over the last number of months we have looked at evidence-based research, we have heard from local advocates and experts, we looked at how our program operates and compared that with other Districts, and we have engaged with staff, students and parents in various ways. We heard stories from people who had personally benefitted from the program, and we heard from students and families who felt the presence of an officer made them feel less safe or welcome in our schools, people who were calling on us to act.
After months of review and contemplation, at our last Education Policy and Planning committee meeting the Trustees collectively decided that we had sufficient information gathered and were prepared to make a decision.
Last night we passed the following motion, which has brought an end to the Child and Youth Liaison Officer program:
THAT the Board of Education of School District No. 40 (New Westminster) discontinue the Child and Youth Liaison Officer Program in our schools, effective immediately, and direct staff to collaborate with the NWPD in the re-design of our relationship as it specifically relates to our protocols and training for emergency procedures in schools including critical incidents, lockdowns and Violent Threat Assessments (VTRA); AND direct staff to report back at the June 8, 2021 Education Policy and Planning Committee meeting, on those transition plans.
This means we will be joining Districts like Vancouver in changing our relationship with our local police, so that we can also better support people in our BIPOC community and others who have shared their concerns with the partnership.
This was not an easy decision to make. But it is an important one as we consider how we meaningfully engage in conversations around anti-racism. If we are going to address the systemic racism that is hurting people who live, work and learn in our community, then we also have to consider where we can change the systems that we affect. As a Board, we’re proud of the fact that, in this case, we were able to centre the voices of BIPOC community members, in an actionable way.
I do want to be clear: this marks the end of a program, but not the end of a relationship.
We heard parents, students and staff when they spoke to the important and valued role the New Westminster Police has played in keeping students, staff and the community safe. We share that value with you, and with the hard working officers who serve this community. We all want to do everything we can to keep kids safe. That’s why the motion specifically names the need to re-design our relationship. Because, when it comes to safety of students – to addressing critical incidents, emergencies or any other number of cases where the police may be the best partners to work with – we will continue to work in close collaboration with the New Westminster Police.
Additionally, our District staff will also be working on recommendations about where there may be community partners, local organizations or our own staff teams who can instead take on some portions of what the liaison officers previously did. In a world that has seen considerable change and growth in the number of community groups who do great work, we want to make sure the right partner is delivering the right support to students and staff.
You may still have questions. Some of those will likely be answered in the June 8th meeting noted in the motion. You can also connect with our Board for more at email@example.com.
This decision is a step forward for people who often have felt like their voices, and physical and emotional needs don’t matter. We thank everyone who shared their thoughts and experiences, especially those of you who pushed and asked for this, whether that came as someone personally impacted or as an ally. And we recognize that this may take some time to adjust to, as we sort through the details. Please know we are committed to making sure that all of our students will benefit from this important change.
Board Chair, New Westminster Schools