Monday, June 27, 2016

Collingswood NJ: Converting Schools to Prisons / Teachers to Snitches

Update - police state policy ROLLED BACK!  Victory!  

This article linked and quoted:

Bob Witanek, who blogs about law and justice issues in New Jersey at Decarcerate NJ, echoed Mello’s fears, pointing out that the racial disparity among jailed residents of New Jersey is twice the national average, with blacks “12 times as likely to end up in prison.”
“Policies that turn every school discipline matter into a police matter will only exacerbate this matter, especially given the similar racial disparities in school discipline that are typical in New Jersey and throughout the nation,” Witanek wrote.
“Why does every possible infraction have to be run by the prosecutor’s office for possible police action?” he wrote. “There is no rule that every violation of law has to be prosecuted…what does this say about the future of New Jersey public schools that, under the whim of a local prosecutor, teachers get turned to snitches and education gets criminalized?” '

As of last night here is where we stood:

Somehow the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office has the power to force by unilateral edict a school district to cede its disciplinary responsibilities to tbe local police and prosecutors office – resulting in the criminalization of what previously would have been considered minor and routine day-to-day disciplinary matters.

Every single discipline matter in Collingswood NJ schools has to be referred to the prosecutors office and investigated by the police.  Total boondoggle – and what about all the wasted tax dollars on police hours investigating chewing gum stuck under the desk or hallway pushing match.
When did schools fall under the jurisdiction of the prosecutors’ office?  What police state language in NJ state law allows this arrangement to be imposed – apparently via edict by a prosecutor?  Why can’t the superintendent just say – no can do – we will let you know if we need police help with anything. 

NJ is the very worse state in the nation when it comes to the disparity between the likelihood of a Black resident catching a prison sentence vs. a white resident – a Black NJ resident is 12 times as likely to end up in prison.  That is twice the national average of 6:1 which itself is horrendous.

See Sentencing Project report:

Policies that turn every school discipline matter into a police matter will only exacerbate this matter especially given the similar racial disparities in school discipline that are typical in NJ and throughout the nation.

What role does the Camden County prosecutors office play in feeding this disparity?  Should public schools be part of these stats?  Should Collingswood superintendent – on behalf of the Camden County prosecutor – be greasing the skids and pushing kids into the juvenile system?

We have all heard of the school to prison pipeline – in Collingswood NJ they are skipping the school – turning the schools into a prison – so now it is the Collingswood Prison to Prison Pipeline.

What authority does a prosecutor have to edict a school to do this and why does every possible infraction have to be run by the prosecutors office for possible police action - there is no rule that every violation of law has to be prosecuted - why would this be going on and what does this say about the future of NJ public schools that under the whim of a local prosecutor - teachers get turned to snitches and education gets criminalized?

And how can teachers and administrators build meaningful educational relationships based upon trust with their students if the definition of their jobs includes being a police snitch?
Lets call them out and lets demand this cozy little arrangement for police over time and ruining the lives of children – criminalizing them for leaving their seat before the bell rings – is brought to an immediate halt.

Another reason to oppose this is because if allowed to stand this can set a dangerous precedent where prosecutors take over school after school and turn them into virtual incarceration facilities.

Write to Collingswood Superintendent Scott Oswald – tell him to stand up for his students and teachers and tell the cops and the prosecutor to back off.  Tell him to refuse to comply and to seek an injunction to block the policy.,&n=Scott+A.+Oswald%2C+Ed.D.

Write to NJ Commissioner of Education David Hespe and tell him to assert Department of Education authority over this police state intrusion into education discipline matters.

My letter:
From: Bob Witanek 
Sent: Jun 27, 2016 11:22 PM
Subject: Prosecutor Hands Off Public School Discipline!

Dear Superintendent Oswald and Commissioner Hespe.

Under what legal authority does the superintendent cede discipline code matters to the police and prosecutor?  How does a prosecutor's office get away with unilaterally ordering a school district to allow it to handle all discipline matters?  Why should every minor discipline matter be subject to possibly being criminalized?  And how can Camden County afford all of the police over time to cover school discipline issues?

How does the NJ State Commissioner of Schools sit on the sideline and watch this happen?  

Is it your plan to implement such police state tactics across the whole state?

Is this a trial balloon?

Where is the mandate for this and what legal authority is governing this police takeover of Collingswood schools?

The Sentencing Project has found that NJ has the worse racial disparities in incarceration rates - a Black resident is 12 times as likely as a white to catch a prison sentence.  We all know that similar disparities permeate the schools across NJ and the nation regarding discipline matters.

THe State Senate just passed a measure that requires all new criminal justice related matters to have a racial impact study.  Who did the diligence of raical impact of this prosecutor takeover?

Who bears responsibility for the potential lives ruined by criminalization of Collingswood students and the education opportunities ruined by turning teachers into snitches.

Bob Witanek
Decarcerate the Garden State

Most Recent Meeting Minutes for Decarcerate the Garden State Sept 9 Organizing

1 comment:

  1. i think it's down and out cannot evaluate the current scenario there are good as well as Worst Prisons in the World too