An Edmonton school official didn't hold back in the latest board meeting. On Tuesday, June 24, an Edmonton Public School Board trustee named Cheryl Johner discussed police presence in local schools. She went on to say that kids need protection from refugee students.
The public Zoom meeting took place over eight hours and streamed live on YouTube. You can skip forward to the eight-hour mark to see the specific comments.
Cheryl Johner said, "It's a very important topic we're discussing at the moment."
"My mind goes to the number of refugee students that come into our district that are from war-torn countries, that have never known school before arriving here. All they've known is violence," she said.
"When those students sometimes enter our schools, they can be violent there as well."
Johner said that the safety of students is extremely important and that students should "feel safe as they go to their own schools."
She said that's when police presence becomes important. "The officers act as a deterrent. They can respond quickly to escalate situations when needed."
Other than that discussion, the meeting mostly addressed the need for the Student Resource Officer (SRO) program.
According to the Edmonton Journal, this program has nearly 30 official officers stationed at various schools across the city of Edmonton. The program has been around for longer than 40 years.
The board members weighed in on whether they want to keep or suspend the program. Johner said that she agrees with the board's chair, Trisha Estabrooks, that there isn't enough evidence to support the suspension of the SRO program.
"I just really feel it's not evidence-based," said Johner. "I really encourage my colleagues to consider not voting for this notion because again, in a court of law, you're innocent until proven guilty."
Johner concluded her remarks by touching upon racism. "I know there is racism but I just feel that this program really does a lot of benefit. It's not all bad, nobody is created equal," she stated.
She added that some SRO officers are good and others are not. But they have carried out the process to determine that there is value, the trustee said.
The Edmonton Journal explained that the program initially popped up in schools over worries that there was drug use in the schools.
Black Lives Matter Edmonton has urged the City of Edmonton to remove police presence from local schools. This was included as one of their requests in their plea to defund the Edmonton Police Service.
Narcity has reached out to the Edmonton Public School Board for comment and we will update this article when we receive a response.