SD 23 study finds overwhelming support for uniformed RCMP officers in public schools

Support for cops in schools

Staff and students in the Central Okanagan public school system are overwhelmingly supportive of the district’s RCMP school resource officer program.

School trustees ordered a review of the program in the wake of the Vancouver School Board voting in April to end its police liaison program over concerns of how racialized students’ wellbeing are impacted by the presence of a uniformed police officer.

The Central Okanagan School District conducted more than 100 interviews at 10 schools and found overwhelmingly positive feelings for uniformed officers in Kelowna-area schools

Ninety-one per cent of parents, 91 per cent of staff and 93 per cent of student comments were positive.

Some shared concerns, but many of those revolved around how to improve the program.

“Maybe some people are intimidated because of the uniform, so they don't want to talk to them. I guess they have to wear their uniform, so maybe be available by phone if needed,” said one student.

“I'm comfortable talking with him more than an officer that I don't know,” said another student.

Parental feedback praised school resource officers for intervening in cases of bullying, building trust with students and keeping parents in the loop.

“My son was not in trouble or arrested or anything, but I appreciated the phone call. It made me start talking to my son about some decisions he was making,” said one parent.

Another parent, however, suggested that school resource officers could try harder to form connections with some students.

"In my opinion as the parent of a young Black teenager I would like to reassure my son that he can feel safe, respected and supported by an officer in uniform especially when engaging with them,” the parent said, adding they would like the officers to adopt a trauma-informed approach while building relationships with students.

Staff, meanwhile, appreciated the help in dealing with “everything from fights and assaults to drugs and alcohol involving students.”

Staff said they would like to see more officers in the classroom in an educator role to further build trust. Some students suggested the same, noting that one school resource officer is “in the office a lot.”

“Maybe walk through the school or come to events like assemblies or talk to us outside at lunch time,” the student said.

Senior management at the school district endorsed the program in a report to trustees on Wednesday. The school district says it will be sharing its findings with the RCMP in an effort to improve and address the concerns that did arise.

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