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UPDATE: Abbotsford trustees supportive of current school liaison officer program

Abbotsford School District putting longstanding officer liaison program under review

Abbotsford school district superintendent says there will be a thoughtful review of the city’s school liaison officer (SLO) program.

Communities across the province partner with RCMP or local police departments to have some form of law enforcement presence in public schools. But this November, Kasari Govender, B.C.’s human rights commissioner, issued a report to all trustees outlining several concerns about these programs.

Kevin Godden informed the board Tuesday night that he is in contact with the chief of the Abbotsford Police Department, Mike Serr, and that they are each “committed to improving the program for the benefit of all students and families.”

There have been concerns that the impact on students and their families can be more negative than positive, particularly for those who are marginalized and may see the police presence as a threat.

The commissioner has asked all school districts to end the use of the programs “until their impact can be established empirically,” stated Godden. Abbotsford’s police department and school district have a long history of working together.

“Consequently, we will consider some of the approaches contained in the (commissioner’s report) that outlines a process for thoughtfully reviewing the effectiveness of our SLO program,” he said.

Trustee reaction to the commissioner’s report varied. Stan Petersen said that he believes the Abbotsford SLO program is about education, not enforcement, but that all programs should be regularly reviewed.

“Due diligence suggests we should always look at the effects of our programs,” Petersen said. “But it seems to me the problems are in schools where the officers were there for enforcement…. I see it as completely different. This report is not reflective of what we have in our schools.”

Jared White said he is “very, very troubled” by the commissioner’s letter.

“There’s not too many worse things you could call someone than (racist),” he said. “And to insinuate that the police force across the country is systemically racist to then insinuate that then our police force is systemically racist… I think this smacks of cancel culture.”

He said he was glad to hear that the district would not be cancelling the program, but doing a review.

Board chair Korky Neufeld said it would be a good time for the “anti-gang squad” who works in the schools to give the board a report.

Shirley Wilson spoke at length in favour of the program, as well, saying that the Abbotsford Police Department “really are the best in blue and I really appreciate what they have done for our schools.”

She said Abbotsford is a diverse community with about 78 different languages represented, and that it’s a “very, very significantally multicultural community.”

“Someone would say just looking at it on the face of it that we would have all that trauma that that letter identifies, except we don’t,” she said.

She said they should look at what the program is doing well, instead.

“I don’t want to be in the position of other boards that have said ‘no we’re not doing this’ and it’s a wholesale no, or a public fight about this.”

The report can be expected in the new year.

READ MORE: Human Rights Commissioner calls for an end to police officer program in B.C. schools


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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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