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A n elementary school in New Jersey allegedly called the police on a third grader for talking about brownies — yes, as in the baked good — over concerns that the word “brownies” may have been a racial slur.
According to the student’s mother, her nine-year-old son was participating in a conversation about the bakery treat during his end-of-the-year class party at William P. Tatem Elementary School on June 16 when another student remarked that his comment was racist. Rather than explain to the accusing student that the name of the baked good is a generally accepted term and not racially charged whatsoever, the school actually called the police.
“He was intimidated, obviously,” the mother, Stacy dos Santos, said, according to Philly.com .
“There was a police officer with a gun in the holster talking to my son, saying, ‘Tell me what you said,’” she continued. “He didn’t have anybody on his side.”
According to Philly.com. the police department also contacted the boy’s father, and the incident was referred to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency — because after all, hearing a nine-year-old talking about snacks definitely makes you wonder how he could possibly be safe living in a home with people who raised him to behave that way.
According to dos Santos, her son spent his last day of third grade at home because of the incident, and he feels so “traumatized” over it that they’re hoping to send him to a different public school in the fall.
Unfortunately, another school in the same district may just be more of the same. After all, according to both school officials and police, they were told during a May 25 meeting with representatives from the county prosecutor’s office that every little thing that could maybe potentially be considered criminal — even things that Police Chief Kevin Carey called “as minor as a simple name-calling incident” — should be reported to the cops. What’s more, Carey also said that “just about every incident” should be reported to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency. According to Philly.com. Superintendent Scott Oswald estimated that the cops may have been called to as many as five incidents per day in the district of 1,875 students over the last month.
Not surprisingly, Philly.com reports that parents are not big fans of the policy — and that they have written letters and taken to social media to express this. Hopefully, it can make a difference. After all, what good can come from involving law enforcement anytime some kid talks about snacks is really not clear — but the potential for harm is.
— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online.