We've been told multiculturalism is some sort of panacea when it comes to race relations, instead we're finding it leads to paranoia and the creation of conflicts out of nothing.
On June 16, police were called to an unlikely scene: an end-of-the-year class party at the William P. Tatem Elementary School in Collingswood.This is the level of paranoia these schools are operating under.
A third grader had made a comment about the brownies being served to the class. After another student exclaimed that the remark was "racist," the school called the Collingswood Police Department, according to the mother of the boy who made the comment.
The police officer spoke to the student, who is 9, said the boy's mother, Stacy dos Santos, and local authorities.
Dos Santos said that the school overreacted and that her son made a comment about snacks, not skin color.
"He said they were talking about brownies. . . . Who exactly did he offend?" dos Santos said.
The boy's father was contacted by Collingswood police later in the day. Police said the incident had been referred to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency. The student stayed home for his last day of third grade.
Dos Santos said that her son was "traumatized," and that she hopes to send him to a different Collingswood public school in the fall.
And she wants an apology. She said she graduated from Collingswood High School and has two other children, a 21-year-old who also went through Collingswood schools, and a 3-year-old. Her husband, the third grader's father, is Brazilian, dos Santos said.
"I'm not comfortable with the administration [at Tatem]. I don't trust them and neither does my child," she said. "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."
The incident, which has sparked outrage among some parents, was one of several in the last month when Collingswood police have been called to look into school incidents that parents think hardly merit criminal investigation.
Superintendent Scott Oswald estimated that on some occasions over the last month, officers may have been called to as many as five incidents per day in the district of 1,875 students.
This has created concern among parents in the 14,000-resident borough, who have phoned their elected officials, met with Mayor James Maley, blasted social-media message boards, and even launched a petition calling on the Camden County Prosecutor's Office to "stop mandated criminal investigation of elementary school students."
The increased police involvement follows a May 25 meeting among the Collingswood Police Department, school officials, and representatives from the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, where school officials and police both said they were told to report to police any incidents that could be considered criminal, including what Police Chief Kevin Carey called anything "as minor as a simple name-calling incident that the school would typically handle internally."
The police and schools were also advised that they should report "just about every incident" to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency, Carey said.
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