NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – A small number of concerned parents have ended a program where Northampton police officers gave high-fives to kids on their way to school. Many parents are now disappointed that a well-intentioned program had to stop, when the controversy could have been addressed differently.
In December, the Northampton Police Department instituted a “High Five Friday” program where uniformed officers traveled to the city’s 4 elementary schools, high-fiving and fist-bumping kids on their way to class. The program was inspired after officers attended a conference in the fall, and learned about the inexpensive yet effective policing initiative meant to provide a positive connection between kids and police.
It came to an end last week, after Chief Jody Kasper met with parents who argued the gesture made a few minority and immigrant students feel more scared than safe.
The issue began to receive attention beyond Northampton following a report Friday on the blog Turtle Boy Sports.
22News spoke with local parents in downtown Northampton about the program’s cancellation, asking if their child approached them saying they felt uncomfortable by high-fiving a police officer, how that parent would address the situation.
Jessica Tanner, whose children will be attending elementary school in a few years, told 22News, “I would start sharing some positive stories about police officers, because I wouldn’t want him to grow up being afraid of them. Maybe if we could go down to the local police station and have a tour.”
Wendy Bajrachrya said, when it comes to her two children, “I actually think we live in a really welcoming community where immigrants are welcome. Their dad is from another country, and they feel really welcome here. I think it’s really unfortunate that this is being stopped.”
Northampton police are exploring alternate programs, and are still accepting high-fives.
Chief Kasper and Northampton Public Schools Superintendent John Provost are both out of the office for the remainder of the week, and were unable to comment on this story.
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