Monday, February 8, 2010

"What are the police doing here?"

This is what my students asked at the end of the day as we filed outside for dismissal. It was an interesting question. Typically a squad car is parked on the main road in front of our building. Today, in addition to that car, there was one parked literally on the black top of our school yard, right under the steps from the main entrance. Since there were no announcements or memos sent around during the school day about any potentially dangerous situations, I had no idea. I explained that the police were there to help everyone stay safe.

After I spoke with a few parents, I had two left who were either waiting to go home or go to after school. What follows are some of their thoughts and experiences about police.

Student 1: The police put people in juvie.
( Yes I asked him if he knew what juvie was, and yes, he did provide an accurate explanation, and yes, he is five years old)

Student 2: When I am in the car with my mom and we see a police car, she always asks me if I have my seat belt on. She never wears hers, only when we see the police. (I interjected here with comments about seat belts and how they keep people safe in the car) Oh yeah, my mom says she does not need no ticket.

Student 1: When the police are not looking, my mom puts the car on two wheels and makes it spins around really fast. It is awesome, like in the movies.

Student 2: So if I started kicking you really hard and doing bad stuff, what would happen, would I go to juvie?

Our lovely discussion was interrupted by Student 1 leaving with his family and Student 2 going to after school. I know so many of my students and the students in our building have negative perceptions of police officers and some of that is largely due to the negative experiences of their family members or neighbors. It troubles me though. I want them to know that police can help people, that if they were ever in trouble and needed help, they could ask a police officer. My messages about the police stand in sharp contrast to their perceptions though.

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