Police were called to a New Jersey elementary school after a 9-year-old student said, “Brownies,” while talking about snacks, his mother alleged.
Another student reportedly misinterpreted the comment and thought it was said in a racist way, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. A teacher subsequently called police.
“He said they were talking about brownies,” Stacy dos Santos, the child’s mother, said. “Who exactly did he offend?”
Dos Santos added that the incident has made her think twice about sending her child back to the school in the fall.
“I’m not comfortable with the administration; 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.”
Officers also spoke to the children’s parents, and the incident was reported to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
Collingswood Police Chief Kevin Carey stated during a meeting with school officials that they should report incidents to police, including cases “as minor as a simple name-calling incident that the school would typically handle internally.”
Police also said they were advised to refer almost every case to Child Protection and Permanency.
This policy was a shift from the previous one under the Memorandum of Agreement between the police and schools in New Jersey, under which incidents were reported only when deemed serious enough. Such action was typically taken in cases involving drugs, weapons or sexual assault.
Since the meeting, officers have been called to the school as often as five times per day.
“Some of it is just typical little-kid behavior,” teacher Megan Irwin said. “Never before in my years of teaching have I felt uncomfortable handling a situation or felt like I didn’t know how to handle a situation.”
The mayor, police and Camden County Prosecutor’s Office ultimately arranged a meeting to discuss incidents.
“In our discussion today, you and your staff made it abundantly clear that our recent meeting was to reinforce the applicability of the Memorandum of Agreement, but not to expand its terms,” Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley wrote in a letter to the prosecutor’s office, the Collingswod Patch reported.