The provincial government has announced it is giving a $4.93 million boost to the gang prevention program “Erase” over the next three years.
Erase, which stands for “expect respect and a safe education,” is a school based program that aims to support at-risk students “to get off the path to gang life.”
The program is in its second year of operation and is now expanding from 12 to 16 communities in B.C.
“Too often, we hear about the devastating effects of gang life on B.C. youth and their families, which is why we’re taking targeted action and offering intensive supports in B.C. communities that need help the most,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, who made the announcement in Surrey Thursday along with Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.
“By focusing on training and prevention, we are taking important action to support young people earlier and give parents, schools and communities a way to work together toward positive futures,” added Fleming.
In March of this year, the province had announced $1.12 million for the program.
Together, these investments will “provide ongoing support” to the previously named communities (Abbotsford, Burnaby, Delta, Kamloops, Kelowna, Langley, Nanaimo, Prince George, Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria and Williams Lake) and the program will expand to Campbell River, Chilliwack, Courtenay and Hope.
Former student Jesse Ralen, an alumni of our WRAP program, speaks to the importance of supporting at-risk youth as the province announces additional funding for school-based gang & gun-prevention pgms. #surreybc #sd36learn pic.twitter.com/4n3Y3TiDVb
— Surrey Schools (@Surrey_Schools) December 5, 2019
Safer Schools Together – the Ministry of Education’s service-delivery partner for the student safety components of Erase – is “continuing to develop a new resource for B.C. educators, connected to the provincial physical and health education curriculum,” a government release notes.
The new resource will be made available in early 2020, the release indicates, and will include informational videos and a teacher’s guide to help students develop healthy relationships, avoid unsafe or exploitive situations and protect themselves from harm.
Surrey school district Superintendent Jordan Tinney said in a release that “hundreds of students in Surrey alone have already benefited from the gang awareness training delivered by experts in the field, and with this expansion, even more B.C. students will have access to life-changing training and educational opportunities.”
Tinney said the program offers “community-focused supports, meaning students in the priority communities will receive programming that is tailor-made to suit their specific needs.”
Minister Farnworth said “prevention and intervention at the community level are important parts of combating gun and gang violence. That’s why we continue to invest in programs like this that support our law enforcement partners, schools and communities in curbing violence and saving young lives.”
A government release says that to date, “more than 8,000 students, parents, educators and community partners have participated in 110 training and education sessions” through Erase.