A bill newly passed in the New Jersey state Assembly on Thursday would require schools to teach kindergarten through 12th grade classes on how civilians should interact with police.
When initially introduced in 2016, Assembly bill A1114 was criticized for putting too much responsibility on children, requiring they be taught “the role and responsibilities of a law enforcement official in providing for public safety; and an individual’s responsibilities to comply with a directive from a law enforcement official.”
It’s amended version, which passed 76-0, puts more stress on “an individual’s rights under law in interacting with a law enforcement official,” with the ideal outcome of police/civilian interactions conducted in “a manner marked by mutual cooperation and respect.”
New Jersey Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, who first introduced the bill, states:
“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...This is a lesson many parents already teach to their children. Making it part of the school curriculum is the next logical step.”
Critics, however, worry that the bill will stress cooperation over knowing one’s rights.
“Placing the onus on individuals, whether it be students or drivers, to take responsibility for their safety during police interactions is, frankly, ridiculous,” Portia Allen-Kyle of the ACLU of New Jersey tells NBC News.
Then there’s also the sad fact that a person—particularly a person of color—can comply completely with police and still end up dead, as the recent police killing of civilian Philando Castile in Minneapolis, MN clearly demonstrates.
Still, Allen-Kyle concedes that the revised bill is a great improvement on the original, saying, “Knowing your rights helps you to know when they are violated.”
If Assembly bill A1114 is passed through the state Senate, it would likely be integrated into social study programs in 2018.