Newark school children locked in, really?

Can the State of New Jersey actually ‘imprison’ children against the will of their parents and guardians?

I was told of a very disturbing event that occurred at the Ivy Hill Elementary school, here in the West Ward of the City of Newark. Cami Anderson, the State appointed Superintendent of the Newark Public School system was recently at the school, during a time when parents, many active in the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization), were also present.  Understandably, Newark parents are concerned and questioning the plans for the future of Newark public schools.  Despite positive gains that came be achieved through open dialogue, Ms. Anderson apparently moved a large group of students to the school’s library and ordered that parents not be allowed in and not be allowed to have contact with the students (their own children) . Incredibly, she ordered that the doors be locked, preventing the parents from entering or the students from leaving the library. She then had a ‘talk’ with the students. 

As a Newarker, as an alumni of the Newark Public School system, as a parent of children who have gone through the school system and of five year old twins who are about to enter the school system, I of course hear a great deal of things about the schools and the superintendent. I will be very blunt. I initially questioned these reports. I did not think anyone would be as foolish, ill-advised, reckless, inconsiderate or discourteous as Ms. Anderson has been depicted. However, we live in the 21st century. We have tweets, blogs, feeds and the might of YouTube. I was told to look at a video of the conference with Sen. Ronald L Rice and Ivy Hill Elementary school PTO President Darren Martin, among others who confirm the actions of Ms. Anderson.  I encourage you to also view the conference for yourself at the following link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJqKB7dloRA&feature=youtu.be.

As a former Newark Municipal Court judge, I have been in the position to exercise power and authority. However, I made it the cornerstone of my courtroom that the poorest, weakest, most helpless or illiterate defendant was given exactly the same respect as I would give the governor, if he were standing before me similarly accused (paraphrasing our former Chief Justice Weintraub). That is the equal protection our Constitution gives to each and everyone of its citizens. Growing up in Newark, I know that my fellow citizens understand the meaning of respect. Understanding the written law (as well as the principles of human decency) I know that my fellow citizens deserve it! I received respect in my courtroom, not because of my position, but because I gave it first. In giving it first, it was easy for the recipient to return it.

Let us not mince words. The State of New Jersey took over the Newark Public School system twenty years ago. The State of New Jersey appointed Cami Anderson as its latest Superintendent. Ms. Anderson has both authority and power. Notwithstanding, the reported actions of Ms. Anderson are simply disrespectful.  Putting aside the validity or viability of her plans, the failure to treat parents and students with courtesy, politeness, civility, and restraint is a massive failure. To lock students in a room and fail to give their parents and guardians access to them is abusive, insulting and demeaning. However, this is not the forum to address the possible legal ramifications of her actions.

Rather, this is the forum to ask you, the reader, a few simple questions.

1st  Would Cami Anderson have locked the children of Mendham resident Governor Christopher "Chris" Christie in a library and denied him access to his kids or that room?

2nd  If you believe the answer to the previous question is no, then why did she feel free to do it to the parents, guardians and children at Ivy Hill Elementary school?

3rd   If you believe Ms. Anderson’s actions would not have been acceptable in an affluent suburban school do you think she would have a job the next day?

4th   If you do not live in Newark, do you now wonder whether your school superintendent has the power, authority and willingness, like Ms Anderson,  to lock your children in a library and prevent your from having access to them?

5th   Does Mr. Anderson’s action make you question whether the parents, guardians and children of the Newark Public School system are being treated fairly, respectfully and most importantly, equally?

Personally, I wonder if the governor would acknowledge that the purported conduct that Ms. Anderson exhibited is “completely unacceptable” and “shows a lack of respect” for the appropriate role of government and for the people that  Ms. Anderson is entrusted to serve.  Thank you.

Anthony R. Higgins

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Concerned Citizen and West Ward Council candidate for the City of Newark

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commented 2014-01-22 06:21:05 -0800
Wrong school, wrong information this did not occur at Ivy Hill School in Newark:( please correct the location and information.
commented 2014-01-22 03:56:33 -0800
Despicable and unconscionable actions on the part of Ms. Anderson. Unacceptable and reproachable. My stomach churned reading this and I hope something is done about it. Wasn’t that false imprisonment?
commented 2014-01-21 19:11:27 -0800
she did it because she could. her mandate is not to improve public education in newark, it is to shut it down also look at some of the bad hires she has approved since being in this job. hiring people with unethical behavior in their prior employment? hiring a talent officer who appears to now know what good employment practices are? really??? she has shown her disrespect for newarkers…she needs to go,