Pennsylvania school cops

Why Is A New Jersey School Calling The Cops On Kids’ Drawings, Playground Name-Calling, And Other Minor Shenanigans?

The same New Jersey school that last week made international headlines when officials called the cops over a kid’s supposedly “racist” remarks about brownies, has been calling the cops on just about every instance of kids’ misbehavior – including playground name-calling and drawings of zombies, The Philadephia Inquirer is reporting.

You may recall that on June 30, news broke that officials at William P. Tatem Elementary in Collingswood, New Jersey, had called the police after a kid made a “racist” remark about brownies. As Huffington Post reported at the time, what the kid in question said wasn’t made public. But according to the kid’s mom, Stacy dos Santos, school officials deemed it worthy of a police response.

“He said they were talking about brownies… Who [sic] exactly did he offend? There was a police officer with a gun in the holster talking to my son, saying, ‘Tell me what you said.'”

The heavy-handed response to what seems like a rather minor issue raised eyebrows across the world. But as it turns out, Collingswood school officials seem to have a strange fondness for calling the cops on kids’ misbehavior.

In the last month of the 2015-2016 school year, according to Inquirer reporter Emma Platoff, Collingswood police were called to the elementary school 22 times. Most of those calls involve mundane childhood misbehavior that, a generation ago, would have either been ignored or, at the most, gotten the kid a stern talking-to. One kid called another kid “fat” after having been called “short”; that warranted a visit from the cops. Another kid drew zombies in his notebook; the cops were called. Two kindergartners roughhousing a little too vigorously; a cop showed up.

In fact, “nearly every” incident of childhood misbehavior at Collingswood schools results in a call to the cops, thanks to a “new policy” that was enacted for reasons that aren’t clear.

And parents aren’t happy.

In 16 of the 22 cases where cops were called to the school, one or more police officers questioned kids without a parent present. One parent said that her 7-year-old son thought he was arrested, and that the incident left him “traumatized.” Further, the parent complained that she wasn’t even notified until after her son had spoken to the cops.

“Nobody notified me. I wasn’t there for him. I always tell him, ‘I will always be there for you, whether you’re right or wrong.’ I said I was going to be there for him, but I wasn’t.”

School cops
Is it necessary to call the cops whenever an elementary school kid misbehaves? [Image via Shutterstock/lanych]
The issue of schools calling the police over children’s misbehavior is not limited to Collingswood, New Jersey. In fact, so prevalent is the problem nationwide that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has given it a name: the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

“The ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ refers to the policies and practices that push our nation’s schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. This pipeline reflects the prioritization of incarceration over education.”

The reasons for the school-to-prison pipeline are many: lack of resources, pressure to push under-performing kids out of the school system, or of course, the old bugaboo “Zero Tolerance.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, harsh discipline – up to and including calling the cops over minor schoolyard shenanigans – does little to make schools safer.

“Recent research also indicates a negative relationship between the use of [harsh discipline] and expulsion and school-wide academic achievement, even when controlling for demographics such as socioeconomic status.”

And it seems that in Collingswood, school officials have gotten the message: Collingswood Mayor James Maley has announced that the policy that brings cops to school for minor behavior issues such as making “racist” remarks about brownies has been reversed.

[Image via Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia]