Police were called to a New Jersey elementary school on June 16 after a 9-year-old third-grader used the word brownies when talking about snacks at an end-of-year party, his mother alleges.
Another student at William P. Tatem Elementary School in Collingswood misinterpreted the comment and believed it was racist, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“He said they were talking about brownies. Who exactly did he offend?” Stacy dos Santos, the child’s mother, said to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
A teacher called police and dos Santos says the incident has made her think twice about sending her child to the school in the fall.
“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.”
Officers also spoke to both the child’s parents, and the incident was reported to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
Collingswood Police Chief Kevin Carey told a May 25 meeting with school officials that they should report more incidents to police, including cases “as minor as a simple name-calling incident that the school would typically handle internally.”
Police also said they had been advised to refer almost every case to Child Protection and Permanency.
This was a shift from the previous policy under the Memorandum of Agreement between the police and schools in New Jersey, according to which incidents were reported only when deemed serious. This typically occurred in cases involving drugs, weapons or sexual assault.
Since the May meeting, officers have been called to the school as often as five times per day.
“Some of it is just typical little kid behavior,” Megan Irwin, a teacher, told the Philadelphia Enquirer. “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 arranged a meeting to discuss the series of 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,” wrote Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley in a letter to the prosecutor’s office, according to Collingswod Patch.