Students in Northampton, Massachusetts, had become accustomed to seeing local police officers line up along the sidewalk at school once a month on Friday morning with friendly high fives and fist bumps. Initiated by the Northampton Police Department, the community relations has been cancelled because of concerns voiced by some parents. The “High Five Friday” effort began as an idea that was promoted at a law enforcement conference in San Diego, which promoted the practice as a way to improve relations with young people.
During a school committee meeting, concerns were raised that not all children would feel comfortable with a police at the school. After being asked, the police have paused the program.
In a Facebook post, the Northampton police department noted that it had contacted the local school superintendent in advance of engaging in the program to communicate it to the four elementary school principals there. “Everyone was on board. Principals and teachers communicated the High Five Friday plan to staff, students, and families. We went to all of the elementary schools, exchanged high fives, and even snuck in some playground time with kids.
"While we received a lot of support on social media, we also heard a few concerns about the program.”
The statement explained that the chief of police attended a school committee meeting to explain the program and to field questions. In a follow-up meeting with about a dozen members of the public present, according to the statement, “concerns were shared that some kids might respond negatively to a group of uniformed officers at their school. People were specifically concerned about kids of color, undocumented children, or any children who may have had negative experiences with the police.” It was after the second meeting that the chief of police and superintendent decided to halt High Five Friday, “but they remain committed to exploring alternative programs.”
The police department statement went on to say that officers enjoyed greeting children at school and listening to parents, teachers, and school committee members. “For a large portion of our population this program may not seem controversial. However, we cannot overlook the fact that this program may be received differently by some members of our community. Most importantly, we want kids to arrive at school enthusiastic and ready to learn! Luckily, we still accept high fives, low fives, and fist bumps. If you see any of us out there on the streets, feel free to ask for one!”
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