Northampton, MA - A positive program that allowed brief interaction with high fives between elementary school students and the Northampton Police Department has ended.
The Northampton Police Department said on its Facebook page that the High Five Friday program was first presented at the International Association Chiefs of Police (IACP) at a 2016 conference. The idea is for police officers to welcome kids to school and give them high fives before school starts on Friday mornings.
The program was presented as a positive way for police officers to engage in youth from the communities that they work in and also as a way to show positive support for local schools. Just having a police presence at a school is positive in that it deters crime.
Officials at the Northampton Police Department reached out to School Superintendent Provost and asked him if he was interested in the program. He was, and the Department asked him to check with the four elementary schools to see if they were interested. They were, and principals and teachers communicated the event to students' parents.
Almost everyone seemed to love the idea. The NPD Officers were also able to sneak in some playground time with the kids and talk with the faculty about any concerns that they might have. There were a few people who had concerns and Northampton Police Chief Kasper was invited to attend a school committee meeting to explain the program and answer questions.
During that meeting, someone raised a concern about not all kids being comfortable with a police presence at their school at the beginning of the day.
Northampton Police Chief Kasper was asked to a meeting and met with 12 - 15 members of the public. Their concerns were that 'some kids might respond negatively to a group of uniformed officers at their school.' To be specific, people mentioned 'kids of color, undocumented children, or any children who may have had negative experiences with the police.'
Rather than continuing the program to give children positive experiences with police, Superintendent Provost and Chief Kasper met after the meeting and decided to end the program. Ending the program was described as being in the best interest of the kids. The High Five Friday program lasted two months.
It appears to me that once again a perfectly good program, a positive experience for kids and cops, has to end because of certain people. It seems like a great way for kids to discover that cops are human, and to present them in a positive light. Perhaps even change their perspective of how they see a police officer.
I guess unless it's a Black Lives Matter-sanctioned program, or something else that is tailor-made for these kids, it's not okay. Stopping the program is certainly a good way to reinforce the negative images of police officers that some kids may have. After all, this may be the only positive time they see a police officer.
The parents who complained apparently have a problem with the police being presented in any manner that isn't negative, and it's a shame that the program was ended due to a few people with a horrible interpretation of the program. If there are any children who feel uncomfortable around the police, those are the children that would be helped most by the program.
Do you think that High Five Friday was only canceled because of the ongoing war on police? We'd like to hear what you think. Please let us know in the comments below.