The parents of a New Jersey third-grader are outraged after the police were called on their child for a comment that they said was made about brownies, Philly.com reports.
The incident unfolded June 16 at an end-of-the-year class party at the William P. Tatem Elementary School in Collingswood. The third-grader reportedly made the comment about the brownies being served in the class before another student called him out for being "racist." According to the news site, the police were called and spoke to the student.
It was not immediately clear what exactly the boy said.
However, the 9-year-old boy's parents are not amused. Stacy dos Santos, his mother, says that the school overreacted.
"He said they were talking about brownies. … Who exactly did he offend?" dos Santos said.
The boy's father was contacted by the Collingswood Police Department later that day, and authorities say that the incident was referred to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency. The boy ended up staying at home for his last day of third grade.
Dos Santos said that her son was "traumatized," and she is looking into sending him to another school for the new school year. She is, however, also demanding an apology from Tatem.
"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."
According to Philly.com, this is just the latest in a string of visits from Collingswood police for matters that parents don't think need such heavy intervention.
The report notes that Collingswood Public Schools Superintendent Scott Oswald estimated that over the last month, officers may have been called in to intervene in as many as five incidents per day in the district, which serves 1,875 students.
The number of visits has raised concerns among parents, who have called elected officials about the matter and have met with Mayor James Maley. They have also launched a petition to "stop mandated criminal investigation of elementary school students."
According to Philly.com, the increased police activity follows a May 25 meeting that included the Police Department, school officials and representatives from the Camden County Prosecutor's Office. School officials and police said that they were told to report any incidents to the police that might be considered criminal, including matters "as minor as a simple name-calling incident that the school would typically handle internally."
School officials and police were also encouraged to report "just about every incident" to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
"It was a pretty clear directive that we questioned vehemently," Oswald said.
After complaints about the heavy-handedness began to roll in, Maley wrote a public letter attempting to clarify that the meeting was meant to "reinforce the applicability" of the state's Memorandum of Agreement Between Education and Law Enforcement Officials—which had only called for the reporting of serious incidents, such as those involving weapons, drugs or sexual misconduct—and "not to expand its terms."
Maley told Philly.com on Tuesday that there was a "misunderstanding" during the meeting. However, Oswald said that the prosecutor's office was trying to shy away from its own directives.
"At some point, it seems, they've realized that the intent of the MOA that they're leaning heavily upon is not what they directed us to do," Oswald said. "It went way above what that MOA says."
Read more at Philly.com.