Police Inspire RHS Students to Reflect on Complexity of Social Justice Issues

Randolph Police Officer Richard Biase and Sergeant Matt Rispoli speak to students in Angie Stierch’s and Meghan Murphy’s senior English classes about their work in criminal justice, in the RHS Media Center on May 1, 2023.

“Our main job as a cop is to protect life, property, keep the peace and enforce the laws, in that order,” Randolph Police Officer Richard Biase told students from Angie Stierch’s senior English classes in the RHS Media Center on May 1.

At Stierch’s invitation, Biase and fellow officer Sergeant Matt Rispoli spoke to the students to educate them about their work in criminal justice, as part of Stierch’s social justice unit for her students.

Prior to the presentation, the students had chosen a book to read from among five different titles where the young protagonists had experienced either police brutality or an unjust sentencing. The titles were “All American Boys,” “Dear Martin,” “The Hate U Give,” “The Other Wes More” and “As I Lay Dying.”

In order to learn another perspective, from that of police officers, the students were given the opportunity to ask Biase and Rispoli questions about their jobs and what they valued most in their line of work.

“We feel it is important for students to have an informed conversation with the police where they can ask questions and openly discuss topics raised by the novels,” Stierch explained. “Ultimately, we want students to form opinions and seek answers based on research and facts.”

“We need to teach the students how to look critically at issues and make choices about the world and how they navigate it,” Stierch added. “We are now so excited to have the officers coming to shed light on the challenges of serving the community and how they continue to build relationships when tragic events occur.”

During the presentation, the officers recounted stories about how they had responded to dangerous situations, including de-escalating them. “We were driving around on the night shift and we got a call that someone pulled a knife out on people at [a local diner],” stated Sgt. Rispoli. “We followed the car and did a felony stop and successfully detained the individual.”

“It was such an interesting experience and I learned more about what police officers have to go through,” senior Kiersten Tinio noted.

The officers also gave advice to students on how they should act if they got pulled over. They told students if they are told to get out of the car, then they have to follow the police’s orders, but if the police ask to search the car, then individuals have the right to say no.

By all accounts, it was a successful meeting between the police and students, and Mrs. Stierch has plans to have students meet with the officers again in the future.