Absence of UBC’s School Liaison Officer is Concern We Need to Address
Written by Judy Hyojoo Rhee
Up until a few months ago, the family of schools in the UBC area - University Hill Secondary, Norma Rose Point School, and University Hill Elementary - worked with a School Liaison Officer (SLO). The former role was cut as a result of the RCMP budget being unable to support the position. Currently, there is no school liaison officer assigned to our schools. But is this of serious concern?
A School Liaison Officer is a police officer, designated to a school or a family of schools by a local police department, who works with schools, children, and youth. The chief responsibility of a SLO is policing within a community; other responsibilities involve educating students, staff, and parents through programs, serving as a reliable adult whom students can receive counseling from, and bettering the overall safety of schools. A SLO provides information to students who have an interest in entering the police force, investigates suspected crime within the school, and answers questions students raise about issues such as bullying or harassment.
A SLO is someone who knows the students well and whom the students know well; they are considered as being a part of the school. A problem that arises within a student body is able to be effectively dealt with by a SLO, because students trust the officer and thus feel encouraged to speak to them, and because the officer has a previously established understanding of the workings of the school, students, and staff, that they can apply towards solving the issue. Crucially, a SLO is able to build connections within the school community that is not so easily able to be done by an officer who visits the school only when there is a known issue that needs dealing with.
The UHill family schools are, at present, the only schools in Vancouver that do not have a SLO. Unlike the SLOs of the rest of the schools in Vancouver, who are from the Vancouver Police Department, the SLO of our schools is a member of the RCMP. As mentioned previously, the limited budget of the RCMP was the reason for the termination of the role of SLO - such a budget is a notable challenge the federal government is facing.
There has been some progress made thus far to reinstate the position of our School Liaison Officer. The Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and the administrators of UHill Secondary are writing letters to the University RCMP; Norma Rose Point School, UHill Elementary, and the Vancouver School Board are in the process of writing their own letters.
More can and should be done to help restore the position of the SLO. Namely, students can take initiative by launching petitions and increasing awareness of the situation by speaking about the absence of the SLO.
The issue regarding the SLO is one affecting the safety and well-being of students in the UHill family schools. If this was any other issue impacting the safety and well-being of children and youth, communities would have already mobilized and taken action to address the problem. The absence of our SLO is no different. It is necessary that the UBC community - not just those involved the schools themselves, but all UBC residents - actively engages in the process of solving this issue, because at the end of the day, it is in our collective interest to have an officer who is able to truly represent our schools.
*This article is based on an interview conducted with Mr. Tim McGeer, the Principal of University Hill Secondary School.
**This article is published in the March edition of the newspaper Campus Resident.