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Parents wary of allowing cops unrestricted access to schools

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Haider said a typical day for the school cop would see the bulk of time divided between delivering education programs, investigating school-related offences and helping school administrators to informally resolve less serious incidents that do not necessarily require the formal intervention of the criminal justice system.

Topics such as strangers, 9-1-1, being home alone, pedestrian safety, sexual and physical abuse, date rape, drugs, criminal law, traffic and liquor regulations, weapons and drinking and driving would be addressed.

The officer would also attend classes and work with student and parent groups.

Haider told parents a school liaison officer would provide a positive and visible police presence in schools and surrounding neighbourhoods.

The school cop would also identify "at risk" students and provide resources to help deal with them in a proactive fashion, noted Haider. "We do have students here who are from time to time classified as high risk."

However, parents and some school staff are wary of allowing police un-mandated access to local schools.

There appears to be a general consensus that the work being doing in Whistler schools by community police officer Ray Bernoties is valuable. Even more of his time would be warmly welcomed in the schools but how much would be too much? That is the question PAC members and some staff are currently grappling with.

The other is the question of process.

As WSS principal Rick Smith told PAC members, the issue of police in schools in one that needs to be dealt with by the broader school community, including parents, staff, the town and above all, students.

"There has been very little discussion among staff at this stage," he told the PAC. "Please do talk with your kids," he urged parents.

It was also suggested at the PAC meeting that the RCMP make a presentation on the concept to the students themselves and that groups of kids be brought together to debate the move.

Parent Alex Kleinman said he would also like the input of the Healthy Communities group before any decision is made. He feels there are still many questions that need to be answered.

"And what problems are we dealing with? Are they societal?" He pointed out bullying, for example, starts in the home. "But where are we starting the fix?"

He noted educators and school counsellors spend years studying how to interact with children. A policeman, he said, also spends years training but for a totally different purpose. He questioned how well an RCMP officer is equipped for the school job and whether this would be a wise use of educational dollars.