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Delta won't be 'knee-jerking' SLOs out of classrooms: Mayor

The Delta Police School Liaison Officer program has been around since 1971
The Vancouver and New Westminster school boards scrapped their SLO programs but the Delta School District didn't follow. The Delta district and police said they are committed to continuing to look for opportunities to ensure the program delivers the most relevant and appropriate student engagement programming.

It’s absolutely necessary and the community has made it clear they want it to remain in Delta.

That’s what Delta Mayor George Harvie, who chairs the city’s police board, is saying about a recent announcement from BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner regarding School Liaison Officers (SLOs) in schools.

Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender issued a letter to the B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA) reiterating her recommendation that the use of SLOs be ended by all school districts, unless and until they can demonstrate an evidence-based need for them that cannot be met through other services.

 “I strongly recommend that all school districts end the use of SLOs until the impact of these programs can be established empirically,” she said.

However, Harvie told the Optimist that during this year’s municipal election campaign, and knocking of thousands of doors, Delta residents overwhelmingly conveyed support for the Delta Police SLO program, which began in the early 1970s.

“The community wants to see our police liaison officers in schools continue. In fact, what I wanto do is petition the government to change our archaic appointments that the province does to police boards to be refreshed and include more city councillors, and also elected school trustees. That’s the relationship we need to build with our police board,” said Harvie.

“In no way do I support knee-jerking our school liaison officers out of the classroom. They’re absolutely necessary. It’s vital for parents to know that they’re there, including for any safety concerns. A lot of the information I’ve read why some are against it is just an agenda some have and I’m totally against it and don’t want to get involved in,” he said.

Harvie noted a letter to the premier outlining the Delta position will be on the agenda at an upcoming Delta Council /Delta Board of Education Liaison Committee.

Delta Board of Education Chair Val Windsor said that the board in the coming weeks will be discussing the letter sent to the BCSTA.

“During the election campaign, as they were knocking on doors, trustees heard positive comments from Delta residents about the School Liaison Officer program in Delta. This is an important matter than deserves thoughtful consideration and consultation with various stakeholders,” said Windsor.

Delta Police spokesperson A/Insp. James Sandberg said the Delta SLO program has a long history of success.

“We work closely with the Delta School District and the students to ensure the model used by our SLOs is reflective of the values of all students and is especially attentive to those youth who are marginalized by race, disability, trauma, or other circumstances. It is not uncommon for the DPD in conjunction with the school district to review and modify how the police interact with the youth and the schools as frequently as required,” explained Sandberg.

“The DPD will work closely with the DSD and Trustees to ensure the Human Rights Commissioner’s concerns in her letter are reviewed and addressed in conjunction with the youth and the community,” he added.

Currently, Delta SLO's serve 37 public and private schools. The program includes 29 elementary schools, eight secondary schools as well as the Delta School District's International Student Program.

The Vancouver and New Westminster school board's last year scrapped their SLO programs. The Vancouver board this week voted in favour of reinstating a program.