Peace Arch Elementary. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Peace Arch Elementary. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Elementary school coaching by volunteer with criminal past questioned

School district says a review of volunteer at White Rock’s Peace Arch Elementary underway

Parents at a White Rock school are questioning how the Surrey school district screens volunteers, after learning that a former police officer who pleaded guilty nine years ago to dealing drugs while on duty was helping coach basketball at Peace Arch Elementary.

But while school district officials have confirmed they are “reviewing the situation” regarding one parent’s role with the team, and despite a variety of documents on the district’s website that describe the individual as a “community coach,” spokesperson Ritinder Matthew disputes that the person has been acting in any official capacity.

“The individual you’ve identified was not an official coach – there was a teacher that coached the team last year. This individual attended his children’s sporting events and supported the other coaches in an informal capacity. The school referred to him as a coach as a way to define his contributions,” Matthew told the Peace Arch News by email.

“While he was not left unsupervised with students, we are currently reviewing this situation to better understand his exact role on the team.”

Matthew said the parent in question will no longer be allowed to coach.

The parent of a child who attends Peace Arch Elementary contacted PAN last week with concerns about the criminal record-check policy in the district, and if schools are adhering to it.

“My biggest complaint is he is one that we know about – how many others are there that we don’t?” the parent wrote.

According to school district policy, a criminal record check is “strongly recommended” if there is overnight supervision, travel, minimal direct supervision by teachers, student contact which will be extensive or individual in nature, or discomfort with an interview for the position.

A criminal record check is required for anyone who serves as a “community coach,” and if a volunteer may have unsupervised access to students.

The parent who contacted PAN noted that concerns around the volunteer’s involvement were heightened when pandemic-related restrictions closed the doors on parents being able to watch their kids’ school practices.

The parent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, didn’t suggest any wrongdoing on behalf of the volunteer, but took issue with the fact that he was in a position of trust at a school.

“I just want the district to be accountable and make sure the people volunteering are properly checked,” the parent said.

Matthew was unable to say how many criminal record checks were received for parent volunteers in 2019 and 2020.

“We have data at the district level for staff, but not volunteers,” Matthew wrote.

Attempts by PAN to connect with the PAE parent coach were unsuccessful by press deadline.

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