On June 16, the Collingswood Police Department in New Jersey got an unusual call out — they were summoned by William P. Tatem Elementary School. Given recent events, you’d be forgiven for jumping to the very worst of conclusions and thinking the school was under attack.
But no. The scene of the crime was an end-of-year class party, and the perpetrator was a third-grader who made a comment about the brownies being served to the students.
After the boy made the comment, another student accused him of being racist, and his mom, Stacy dos Santos, claims the school then called the police. A police officer spoke to the 9-year-old boy and contacted his father later the same day. According to police, the matter has been referred to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
The boy’s parents insist the comment he made was simply about snacks and had nothing to do with skin color. Whether that’s true or not isn’t really the issue here.
The action taken by the school came about as a result of a change to the previous procedure, whereby it would only report incidents it deemed serious, such as those involving weapons, drugs or sexual misconduct, to the police. After a May 25 meeting among the Collingswood Police Department, school officials and representatives from the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, schools were told to report all incidents that could be considered criminal, even those "as minor as a simple name-calling incident that the school would typically handle internally."
If this kid made a racist comment, it goes without saying that it has to be dealt with. But really, is the right way of doing that calling the police? Who in their right mind would call the cops on a kid unless they are behaving in such a criminal, violent or threatening way that the only solution is law enforcement?
Apparently the boy in question has been left "traumatized" from being questioned by a gun-carrying police officer, and his mom isn’t the only one who’s angry. Several other parents of kids at the school are up in arms about law enforcement being called to deal with what is simply typical young-kid behavior.
Unnecessary police involvement at a school isn't just ridiculous; it's potentially harmful to the kids. Far more harmful than a 9-year-old making a joke about snacks.
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