west side story

District 3 missed chance to talk about equity, comm. group says

The group that proposed eliminating zone lines to combat segregation in District 3 elementary schools isn’t happy with a parent council’s resolution about rezoning the district.

The Community Education Council for District 3 decided last week to take a simple approach to rezoning, recommending that two schools move to new buildings and that zone lines around two others be tweaked. Some in the community had opposed the plan on the grounds that the changes would make school buildings more segregated. But the CEC said it wasn’t permitted to consider diversity in the rezoning discussion.

In a public letter, the Center for Immigrant Families, which has long pushed for more integrated schools in the district, says it is “beyond comprehension” that the CEC’s resolution lacks “even a mention of what is equitable or fair.” From the letter:

Though we understand the CEC has limited powers, we believe you could have played a very important role in our district by insisting that basic principles of equity and concern for all our district’s children were at the center of any conversation of this nature.

As I reported before, CEC 3 member Jennifer Freeman told me that CEC members are in fact interested in talking about diversity. But she said that the rezoning process, which had to follow strict protocols dictated by CEC bylaws and by the Department of Education, was not the right time.

The Center for Immigrant Families will take part in a rally to support diversity outside CEC 3’s final vote tomorrow evening.

The group’s full letter:

Dear Members of the CEC,

We read your resolution about rezoning and overcrowding in District 3. We have already presented our proposal to you, which we hope you will consider and respond to, but wanted to make one observation about your resolution. Not once in the resolution did the words “equity” or “fairness” appear. We find it beyond comprehension that an issue could be discussed with such profound impact on our community without even a mention of what is equitable or fair.

Though we understand the CEC has limited powers, we believe you could have played a very important role in our district by insisting that basic principles of equity and concern for all our district’s children were at the center of any conversation of this nature.

We will continue to make our voices heard and fight for all our children in District 3. Sadly, your resolution doesn’t seem to have been based on that commitment.

Center for Immigrant Families collective

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.