And now for something completely different

Brazil to New Haven to Texas to Argentina to GothamSchools

book cover

Lately, I’ve been spending my days in press conferencesCity Council hearings, and discussion-filled classrooms. But that hasn’t always been the case.

In fact, I have just published my first book, “Sustaining Activism,” which at first glance seems to have little in common with what I’ve been covering at GothamSchools.

In 1986, a group of young Brazilian women started a movement to secure economic rights for rural women and transform women’s roles in their homes and communities. Together with activists across the country, they built a new democracy in the wake of a military dictatorship. In “Sustaining Activism,” my dad — a professor of Latin American history — and I tell the behind-the-scenes story of this remarkable movement and of our research collaboration.

But my first research trip to Brazil, in 2004, connects to what I am doing now. Speaking with women who came to see themselves as activists when they fought to turn Brazil from a dictatorship to a democracy in the 1980s pressed me to look more closely at how memories of dictatorship play out in Chile and Argentina, two neighboring countries.

After I graduated from Yale, I moved to south Texas to run an outreach program for a legal aid center along the US-Mexico border. Turns out showing up in small towns and trying to figure out what’s going on there is great training for a daily news reporter.

Education reporting caught my attention last year, when I spent 10 months in Buenos Aires researching how Argentine high school teachers approach the challenge of teaching about the country’s history of dictatorship. I jumped into reporting mode when students at 50 high schools in Buenos Aires took over their schools for a full month.

Then, in January, I turned my attention to the fascinating and complicated world of education in New York City.

But just because I’m busy reporting on school bus strikes and Sillicon Alley doesn’t mean I’ve left Latin America behind. As I report on schools here this spring, my dad and I will also be giving talks about our book, including several in the city this weekend and later in March. I’ll be at Bluestockings Bookstore at 7 p.m. on Sunday and CUNY Graduate Center at 6:30 p.m. on Monday.

The book was published by Duke University Press. For more info, check out the book site, a chapter excerpt, and a full events list. If you don’t see my byline on GothamSchools some days, I’ve probably slipped away for a book talk, and I’ll be back soon.

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.