Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2024 

Victoria, BC – Last week, the Board of Education for School District 61 (SD61) issued a statement in response to requests for the reinstatement of the School Police Liaison (SPLO) program. 

I, like many others, am disappointed to see that the Greater Victoria School District is refusing to reinstate the SPLO program, despite the expressed support and requests for the program that came from so many stakeholders, including parents, leaders of our BIPOC communities, community members, students, the Provincial Government, city councils and all three police departments in the District. 

I stand by the presentation I made to the Board in February and I am grateful to have provided a catalyst for the many, many parents, teachers, counsellors and community groups who have since stepped forward with their own concerns and lived experiences regarding student safety in our schools. 

The SD61 statement and FAQs deeply underplay the valuable role that SPLOs play in schools. The documents speak to the need for trained, certified and regulated adults to deliver a program with clearly defined goals and activities, with Board oversight. I have been clear that I am open to a revised model for the SPLO program, but I must ask whether the District does not recognize the provincial training and certification of the Justice Institute of B.C., the additional training that is provided to officers throughout their careers, the levels of civilian oversight that currently exist, the careful selection process for our SPLOs, or that our officers have, at their heart, the best interests of students in mind during every school interaction.  

Our children need trusted adult resources now more than ever. We are in full support of additional services for youth that the School Board references, including mental health workers, social workers and counsellors. However, it is important to note these specialized roles have not, and arguably cannot, replace the role of SPLOs. Our officers are committed to serving the needs of students and families as a complement to the teachers and other professional service providers within schools.  

Let me also be unequivocally clear: this is not about funding. Since the decision to remove School Police Liaison Officers in May 2023, the safety and wellbeing of students has become an area of significant concern in SD61 schools. In May of 2018 we made the difficult decision to move our SPLOs to supplement our frontline officers respond to 911 calls. However, VicPD officers continued to be active in schools in many ways. I have been clear that I am ready to re-commit officers to this program immediately. 

I continue to request that the SD61 Board listens to the concerns raised by the community and reinstate the SPLO program immediately, and request that we work together to find a path forward by creating a small sub-committee to revise the program in a way that addresses the concerns raised by the SD61 Board about those who don’t feel comfortable with officers in schools. Keeping students safe requires having trust and a relationship, and that relationship is built through regular, positive interactions, which is the basis of the SPLO program. 

If a program designed to protect children has immense benefits, but is imperfect, instead of removing it altogether let us work to address those concerns head-on and improve it with an eye to building trust and mutual understanding.   

Parents, police and educators working together is how we are going to keep our kids safe. SPLOs are critical to the deterrence and prevention of crime, violent activity, and gang recruitment in schools. Let us come together to discuss how we can improve the program. Our children, and our schools, deserve it.