Protesters who entered Salmon Arm school facilities Friday afternoon, prompting schools to enact emergency protocols, continue to be called out for their “unacceptable” actions.
After noon on Sept. 17, parents, caregivers and guardians received a notice from School District 83 Superintendent Donna Kriger stating protesters “opposed to vaccinations and masking” had chosen to enter schools in and around Salmon Arm. As a result, schools were placed in “hold and secure” for the remainder of the day.
Hold and secure is used when there is a security concern in the neighbourhood. Exterior doors and windows are locked and no one may enter the school. In response to Friday’s events, Kriger said as of Sept. 20 (an in-service day), outside doors to all schools would remain locked.
Kriger had called the actions of protesters “unacceptable,” a sentiment echoed by the City of Salmon Arm.
“The actions of a few, who chose to enter school properties, offices and classrooms without permission, crosses the line of acceptable behaviour,” reads a statement issued by the city, shared on its Facebook page.
“The outpouring of support for our students and educators from across the region, the province and the country is heartfelt and appreciated. Rest assured, we will continue to work with our School District and the RCMP to ensure our schools remain safe and caring places for all families.”
Both B.C. Premier John Horgan and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth spoke against the actions of protesters, as did Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside.
“Schools need to be a safe place for everyone,” said Whiteside via Twitter. “It is entirely unacceptable to protest inside of schools, to speak with other’s children and undermine the decisions they’ve made regarding the vaccine.”
Whiteside I applauded the quick work of school staff to ensure student safety.
Farnworth told the media that further safety options were being considered and people trespassing on school grounds could face criminal charges.
Salmon Arm RCMP attended two of the schools visited by protesters. According to police, the protesters were met by a security guard at the school, were asked to leave and were gone when police arrived.
“The protesters left without incident and the school followed their safety protocols and all students were safe,” reads a Sept. 17 release from the RCMP.
A teacher at a school that was visited by a dozen protesters said he didn’t feel safe.
“I didn’t feel safe for my students, I didn’t feel safe for other students in the building,” South Canoe School teacher Yuri Melnychuk told the Observer.
According to school administration, none of the protesters who visited South Canoe were parents of children currently attending the school.
North Okanagan-Shuswap Teacher’s Association Local 83 president Graham Gomme said he’s grateful for all the public support teachers have received, and also for how School District 83 administrative staff, and the B.C. government, responded.
“What I really appreciate about this is that it seems like, obviously, the vast majority of society is behind not having these kinds of protests, especially in schools or hospitals,” said Gomme.
It is outrageous that anti vaccine protestors would threaten the safety and well being of students, teachers, and #bced school staff like this. Thank you @mikefarnworthbc for the strong words condemning this irresponsible behaviour. #bcpoli https://t.co/HF34q5wFi0— BCTF (@bctf) September 18, 2021
There is no place for protestors on school grounds, let alone inside. https://t.co/xhVwdNxEZc— Greg Kyllo Shuswap (@KylloGreg) September 18, 2021
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