WEST ORANGE, NJ – On Friday, the third-graders from Mt. Pleasant Elementary School went to jail—but luckily, didn’t have to stay long. Actually, like all of the West Orange third-grade classes, they visited the police station and met Mayor Robert Parisi as part of the township’s yearly third grade field trip.
During the trip, the students visited the court house, booking, communications, armory room, Town Hall and more.
Officer Smarsh taught them about the training officers go through in order to have a gun. He told them to never come up behind an officer or to grab at an officer’s waist.
“Police have been getting a lot of negative press these days, and it is important to let people know some of the great programs run by the police,” said Smarsh, when asked about his participation in the program.
“I love getting to spend time with the kids and answering their questions,” he added.
While the kids learned about fingerprinting, DNA and evidence lockers, it was the tiny holding cells that interested hem most—many noting how small the rooms were and that the sinks, water fountains and toilets were all attached.
“That’s how you make prisoners confess,” said one student, “they have to drink from the water fountain that is over the toilet.”
They were also very interested in what prisoners ate and after being told they get coffee and a roll for breakfast, a cheese sandwich and soda for lunch and a burger, fries and a soda for dinner, a few students noted that the meals sounded pretty good. However, the kids weren’t too keen on the idea of not having any roommates.
In the parking lot, the kids saw a fire truck and learned about the typical day in a firefighter’s life, which includes programs with children, trips to schools, career day events, government events and of course putting out fires.
They also learned that fire is not a toy—it’s a tool.
When asked about good uses of fire, the students said, “campfires, warmth, cooking food and light.”
Next the children went into Town Hall, where the Mayor told them about all of the jobs in town including CFO, clerk, business administrator, planning board and more. After answering questions on what the students thought each job entails, the Mayor “appointed” students to each position. They each took a seat at the table in the front of the room and in chairs. By the end of the talk, all chairs were filled.
Parisi explained the importance of the Constitution and the way states and towns can make their own laws, as long as they are Constitutional.
The children also learned that there are 565 towns in NJ, 14,000 households in West Orange, 2000 apartments/condos, and 49,000 residents. The Mayor also told them that there are more weddings in West Orange than in any other NJ town.
The Mayor also fielded questions like how long a mayor can hold office (as long as he/she gets the most votes), did he want to be on politics when he was young (no), his favorite subject in school (English) and what did he like to do when he was young (play sports).
Though he said that he hadn’t met any presidents, he told them he has met Joe Biden and Chris Christie.
“The tradition of this field trip started with Mayor Spina,” said Parisi. “It is one of the pleasures of the job. I love meeting with the kids and connecting with them in this way.”