During an end-of-the-year class party at a New Jersey elementary school, a 9-year-old boy said something about brownies and was subsequently questioned by a police officer who was called by the school to investigate an incident of racism.
It was another student that accused the boy of saying something “racist,” but the boy’s mother said he was talking about “snacks, not skin color,” according to Philly.com.
“He said they were talking about brownies. Who exactly did he offend?” the mother, Stacy dos Santos, asked incredulously.
When the boy’s father was contacted later in the day, he was informed that the matter was referred to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency. It is also reported that the boy stayed at home for his last day of third grade.
But lest it appear that this was an overreaction from the school, as the mother described it, this is actual protocol, decided upon at an earlier meeting between the police department, representatives from the county prosecutor’s office and school officials at William P. Tatem Elementary School in Collingswood.
It was decided that any incident that could be deemed criminal should be reported to authorities, even something “as minor as a simple name-calling incident that the school would typically handle internally,” Police Chief Kevin Carey said.
After that meeting, it is noted that officers were called more often than ever to investigate incidents, sometimes as many as five incidents per day in the span of a month.
Dos Santos said this incident has left her son “traumatized” and is looking to enroll in another school next year:
“I’m not comfortable with the administration [at Tatem]. I don’t trust them and neither does my child. He was intimidated, obviously. There was a police officer with a gun in the holster talking to my son, saying, ‘Tell me what you said.’ He didn’t have anybody on his side.”
Other parents are echoing these concerns, calling the increased police involvement “ridiculous” and “harmful.” One teacher from another school who has children in the Collingswood district said, “Some of it is just typical little-kid behavior. Never in my years of teaching have I ever felt uncomfortable handling a situation or felt like I didn’t know how to handle a situation.”
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