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Parents divided on police in schools

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Elementary PAC wants to canvass opinions before summer holidays

It looked like it was going to be an orderly and somewhat uneventful annual general meeting of the Whistler secondary Parent Advisory Council, until the topic of police in schools was introduced.

The chair of the Myrtle Philip PAC, Don Brett, came to the meeting seeking high school co-operation for a survey to gauge the level of parental support for a full-time police officer in Whistler’s schools. It was clear from the response that there are strong feelings on all sides of the debate.

The elementary school PAC had decided at their last meeting to survey parents of Myrtle Philip students before the end of the school year next month. It was also decided that the elementary school should try and do the survey in collaboration with the high school.

Brett came to the WSS meeting armed with a draft survey. His hope was to hammer out the finer details with the WSS PAC executive at a later date. This would include determining how the questions should be worded and what percentage of positive response should be accepted as a mandate for the PACs to lobby the municipality for funding for a school liaison officer.

The goal is to have the survey designed within a week with input from the PACs, school staff and the municipality to ensure the results will be meaningful.

Some parents, however, had other ideas. They felt the process was being rushed. They wanted to know whose tune they were supposed to be dancing to and why.

Parent and PAC director, Alex Kleinman was not prepared to give the WSS PAC executive a mandate to design a survey without coming back to the PAC for a vote of approval. "I ask that the survey not be sent out until you have full PAC approval."

Brett said there was not enough time to do this before the end of the school year. He noted Whistler RCMP Staff Sgt. Hilton Haider made his presentation to the schools more than six weeks ago and it was only courteous to give the man a response.

"Staff Sgt. Haider wants some kind of response before the end of the year," said Brett.

School trustee Andrée Janyk suggested the PAC form a committee to look into the issue. She said parents are being faced with a major decision. "I’m feeling a sense that we are trying to rush this before the end of the school year," she said. "And that is when you make mistakes."

There was also a concern that not enough weight was being given to school staff opinion and there was debate as to whether student input should be sought.

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