Bill would make interaction with police part of school curriculum

TRENTON, NJ — Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Sheila Oliver, Mila Jasey, Cleopatra Tucker and Ralph Caputo to instruct New Jersey students on how to interact with law enforcement was released Thursday, June 15, by an Assembly panel.

Bill A-1114 would require school districts to provide instruction on interacting with law enforcement in a manner marked by mutual cooperation and respect, and on the rights of individuals when interacting with a law enforcement official as part of the implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Social Studies, beginning with the 2018-2019 school year.

“The number of police-related shootings around the nation have created a mistrust of police in many communities. This can help rebuild the trust that is essential for law enforcement to work,” Oliver, who represents parts of Essex and Passaic counties, said in a press release. “This is not about assigning blame or responsibility, but rather an attempt to empower our young people so they know what to do and what not to do. This is a lesson many parents already teach to their children. Making it part of the school curriculum is the next logical step.”

“Getting stopped by the police can be intimidating. We have seen too many of these interactions go awry, too many families devastated by the aftermath and no resolution in sight,” Jasey, who represents parts of Essex and Morris counties, said in the release. “We should continue to question and debate, but we should also be proactive. Equipping young people with this information can help prevent a tense situation from escalating into tragedy.”

“Teaching young people how to respond when dealing with law enforcement can help save lives,” Tucker, who represents parts of Essex County, said in the release. “This is a life skill that should be taught in our schools, and a skill that can go a long way in improving relations between communities and those sworn to protect them.”

“Interactions with police can be nerve-wracking,” Caputo, who represents parts of Essex County, said in the release. “Teaching our young people the proper protocols when dealing with police can help prevent senseless tragedies.”

The instruction must provide students with information on the role and responsibilities of a law enforcement official in providing for public safety; an individual’s responsibilities to comply with a directive from a law enforcement official; and an individual’s rights under law in interacting with a law enforcement official.

The commissioner of education shall appoint an advisory committee to assist in the development of a curriculum for the implementation of the instructional requirement. The committee must include one representative from the following organizations: the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, the State Fraternal Order of Police, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the New Jersey Council for Social Studies, the New Jersey Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – New Jersey.

The curriculum must consist of two parts, with one part that includes age-appropriate instruction for students enrolled in kindergarten through fourth-grade, and one part designed for the more rigorous instruction of students enrolled in grades five through 12.

The bill would take effect immediately and was approved by the Assembly Education Committee.