I never understand the logic behind calling the police on a very young child. I can’t imagine looking at a 6-year-old and going “Fuck, I’m in danger.” Apparently, officials at a school in Somerville, Mass., didn’t feel the same way, and after an incident where the police were called on a 6-year-old Black and Latino child, the district has suspended school policing programs.
According to the Boston Globe, the move stems from a 2019 incident where police were called to a first-grade classroom over an incident involving a 6-year-old boy. School officials reported the boy to the police and the Department of Children and Families after a female classmate said the boy allegedly touched her inappropriately. The officials who made the decision have continually defended it to Flavia Peréa, the mother of the boy, saying that state law requires them to report all allegations of sexual misconduct.
Peréa has argued that the school overreacted and didn’t actually follow the state law. She pointed out that state guidelines say that it doesn’t have to be reported if the child is too young to be sexually aware. She also argued that the fact children under 12 can’t be criminally charged under state law makes it even more questionable that the police were called on the child.
I just need to ask: What’s going on with teachers and school officials these days? The more of these stories that come out, the more I’m confused why people who clearly have no business working with kids are in education. I feel like if something like this happened when I was in elementary school, my teacher would’ve explained to the student why what they did was inappropriate, ask the student to apologize and inform the parents what happened. That, to me, seems like where this story should’ve logically ended, but sadly we live in illogical times.
From the Boston Globe:
For the last 18 months, Peréa has been trying to get her son’s records expunged at the Somerville Police Department, DCF, and the Middlesex district attorney’s office, an agonizing journey that was chronicled by the Globe in February.
Andre Green, chairman of the School Committee, downplayed the role the public uproar over how school officials treated Peréa’s son played in placing a moratorium on school police programs. He said the School Committee was planning to take up the issue last school year as part of its equity work, but it was put on hold because of the pandemic.
“As a Black man in America, I always have this concern” about police in schools, Green said. “All schools should periodically review the situation with police.”
School districts across Massachusetts have been re-evaluating their relationship with police officers, spurred both by the death of George Floyd as well as a new state law in December that removed the mandate for schools to have at least one resource officer.
As with any issue, there are two sides at play. Local activists who have been working to remove police from schools are happy with the suspension of the resource officer program. “The national movement to remove police from schools is building momentum and we are proud that Somerville is leading the way,” Matthew Kennedy, a member of the Defund Somerville Police Department steering committee, said in a statement. “Residents are beginning to understand that you can either have cops in schools or restorative justice, but not both.”
There are others who argue that the frequency of mass shootings make school resource officers necessary to create a safe environment. Which, yeah, but if we invested more money into mental health programs, education, and generally made stronger gun laws, that probably wouldn’t be something we’d have to deal with.
While the district voted to temporarily suspend the programs “until the School Committee asks for these programs to be reinstated,” it seems unlikely that the district is going to do right by Peréa and her son.
“There is really an entrenched police culture here in Somerville and it exists without any oversight,” Peréa told the Globe. “The police are clearly involved with schools for things that are not a public emergency. It’s a mess. You have principals calling the police on little kids and they don’t realize the rat nest parents have to go through to get rid of these records.”
An informal group called Justice for Flavia was formed after she went public with her story, and in their research they found the school system reported six students under the age of six during the 2019-2020 school year. The leaders of the group reported this to Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Superintendent Mary Skipper, and Green, but they wrote in a letter that “the tone of the meeting was icy, and city and school district leaders responded to calls for record expungement and repairing the harm done with complete silence.”
It’s absurd that a group of 6 year olds may have a police record because a group of grown-ass adults were too lazy to do the right thing. I really wish some people would just get jobs at the post office.