A week after criticism, city expands its parents bill of rights

When City Council Member Bill de Blasio criticized the Department of Education’s bill of rights for parents as being too limited last week, it was the first many of us had ever heard of such a document. Now, just a week later, the document has expanded, ballooning to an eight-page list of 57 enumerated rights divided into four sections. That’s up from five one-sentence rights published on a single Web page.

A spokesman for de Blasio said school officials alerted his office to the new bill of rights yesterday, the same day the document appeared on the department’s Web site. In a statement, de Blasio said he is encouraged by the expansion, but not satisfied.

The new version outlines a litany of specific rights for parents, including the right to receive their children’s full instructional schedule, the right to have meetings about their children’s educational record, and the right to communicate with teachers. The original bill of rights, which is also still published online, in English and a slate of other languages, was more vague, affording parents the right to things like “a free public school education” for their children and to “be actively involved in the education of their children.”

The new version does not include one of de Blasio’s recommendations, though: the right to attend a zoned school in their neighborhood. De Blasio called that omission “troubling.” His full statement is below the jump.

UPDATE: A spokeswoman for the department, Nicole Duignan, said school officials have actually been working on the expanded document for two years. She said the family engagement and advocacy office built it “based on input and experience from parents who wish to play an active role in their children’s education.”

“We always welcome ideas and suggestions from elected officials to promote and improve parent involvement in our schools,” Duignan said.

De Blasio’s statement:

“I commend the Department of Education (DOE) for working speedily and utilizing my proposal to improve their existing Parents’ Bill of Rights. While this is an important first step, the DOE continues to disregard some of the most critical aspects of the Parents’ Bill of Rights. The DOE’s decision not to include language that guarantees parents access to zoned schools or provides parents with much needed budget transparency is very troubling, and leads me to question DOE’s commitment in these and other fundamental areas. In order for public school parents to be true partners in education, the DOE must demonstrate its commitment to fully engaging parents by honoring the complete Parents’ Bill of Rights.”

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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.