(The Root) — Mace and pepper spray may be accepted tools for adult crowd policing, but police who use them on students are going too far. That’s the message of NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, who, in response to reports that more than 200 of Birmingham, Ala.’s African-American high school students have been on the receiving end of these law-enforcement strategies, said in a statement today, “As long as we continue to treat students like criminals, they will grow up to become criminals.”
Specifically, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization wants Birmingham Mayor William Bell to ban the use of mace and order the police to develop fairer policing policies for schoolchildren. From the NAACP statement:
The NAACP released a petition asking Mayor Bell to ban the use of mace as a form of restraint or moderation by the police in the school system, and to direct the Birmingham Police Department to develop and implement policies specific to the policing of children for all officers assigned to work in Birmingham Public Schools.
“All students are entitled the opportunity to develop in an apparent non-malicious environment,” stated Hezekiah Jackson, IV, Metro Birmingham Branch NAACP President. “We as a community must end this form of archaic police disciplinary response, implement alternative strategies and create an atmosphere in which all children of Birmingham can feel protected and comfortable.”
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.