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Remembering Peggy Synder

Opposing Police In Schools Before It Was Cool

My friend Peggy Synder – who died unexpectedly way too young at 54 back in May 2014 – was known locally primarily as a passionate environmental advocate and leader.

I met Peggy shortly after my family moved to Hopewell NJ in 1993.

After a massive sprawl development project was proposed for Hopewell Valley, Peggy – and MaryLou Ferrara and Leslie Kramer – created the citizen group The Coalition to Save Hopewell Valley, which rapidly attracted almost 1,000 members and became  the leading group that successfully fought and killed massive proposed corporate developments.

Peggy, after victories over proposed sewer lines and massive corporate office parks at Merrill Lynch Scotch Road and BMS sprawl expansions, was appointed to the local planning board and later formed her own environmental consulting firm.

(and it absolutely sickens me to now read that NJ Audubon is mentioned in her Obit, because NJ Audubon was NOWHERE to be seen (with the exception of Bill Neil) when Peggy was forming the Coalition to Save Hopewell Valley and leading the way in Hopewell Township in the fights against Merrill Lynch and the proposed Trenton & ELSA sewer lines).

But, the reason I am remembering Peggy right now is because the issue of police in schools is now on the radar and public agenda.

While it is not mentioned in her obit, I can tell you that Peggy was a strong opponent of police in schools.

Peggy’s kids were a few years younger than my kids. I learned from Peggy of the introduction of police in Hopewell schools, after my kids were gone. It was not easy for Peggy to oppose police in schools at that time.

Her opposition had nothing to do with race and everything to do with kids and their education and how a police presence was anathema to the values, culture and educational mission of a school and the healthy development of children.

When I lived there, Hopewell NJ was an overwhelmingly white and wealthy upscale suburban town. It had a conservative cultural orientation, which, despite certain liberal elite environmental inclinations (NIMBY), had authoritarian tendencies, especially in the schools (my kids went K – 12 there).

So, it was not easy to oppose the friendly local police.

Now, 25 years later, it is becoming clear that police have no place in schools.

My friend Peggy knew that long ago.

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