On Monday, the Binghamton Police Benevolent Association (PBA) told the city’s school administration that the book “Something Happened In Our Town” could endanger public safety. The book was chosen as April book of the month for MacArthur Elementary, according to WBNG.
FOX40 reported that the book was read aloud to students. PBA’s statement quoted purported portions of the book, which addresses how two characters – a Black and White child – react to a police shooting.
When readers reach the Black boy’s house, they’re taken to his father who is playing chess. The boy’s brother, who is also playing chess, says that the cop responsible for the shooting won’t go to jail because “cops stick up for each other” and “they don’t like [B]lack men.” His father adds that while there are many cops who make good choices, “We can’t always count on them to do what’s right.”
The older brother, Malcolm, claims that he could get stopped by the police because of his skin color, even if he didn’t do anything wrong. “That’s not fair!” the young boy, named Josh, responds. “What if it was a White man in the car? Would the police have shot him?” His father states: “They probably wouldn’t have even stopped the car.”
The authors also provide a separate section of tips for Black parents.
They advise telling Black children that “there may be times when a police officer stops you. Being stopped by the police is not a reason to panic or run. It is a time to stop what you are doing, to listen carefully to what the policeman or woman is saying, and then to do what he or she says to do.”
The authors add that “if the police officer is not treating you fairly, we will figure out how to make things right in the future, but it is safer for you to stay calm and obey the police at that moment.”
The book starts from the perspective of a White girl, Emma, whose sister claims that police shot a man “because he was Black.” The girl’s mother is less direct but claims that there’s a “pattern” of police “being nice to White people and mean to Black people. It’s an unfair pattern.”
The book ends with the girl and boy ensuring that an immigrant student, Omad, who the text notes doesn’t speak English well, is included in a soccer game. Both tell off a bully who says of the immigrant student, “we have enough kids on our team” and “we don’t need him.” After the story ends, the book offers a variety of tips and definitions surrounding racial discrimination. Under the definition for prejudice, readers are told Omad faced a prejudiced belief that his poor English would make him a bad soccer player.
The PBA said the book included “a blatant anti-police message.”
It added: “The P.B.A. wholeheartedly supports bringing people together to strengthen and create strong relationships and connections within our community … While we recognize that it is not incumbent on us to determine what should be taught in schools, we feel that the language in this book works to undermine public safety and will leave children with the impression that they cannot trust the police.”
FOX40 reported on Monday that the school district released a statement apologizing to law enforcement.
“We support and respect the brave police officers that protect our community,” reads the statement from Binghamton School District.
“In no way does this book represent our thinking or beliefs about our police. It is unfortunate when any profession is portrayed negatively. We apologize for the negative light this has shined on their profession and commitment to our safety. The Binghamton City School District has embraced School Resource Officers, each whom have served as outstanding role models for our students. We are proud of the relationships they and other officers have developed with our students and the school community.”