New York

Voices from the 2013 high school search: Jonathan Aguilar

Jonathan Aguilar

Jonathan Aguilar, 13, stood in the middle of the jam-packed Francis Lewis High School gym, trying to find a calm spot amid the bustle of parents and students at the Queens high school fair.

At first, Jonathan’s plan was to collect material being handed out from the schools with strong technology programs. But with the sheer number of schools at the fair and the crush of people, it was difficult to figure out each school’s specialty. He began stopping at nearly every booth and collecting the handouts.

“It’s overwhelming,” he said. “I’ve been walking through the school booths just taking papers from all of them.”

Jonathan’s mother, Sandra Aguilar, remained calm. This was not the first high school fair for the Aguilars, who live in the Glendale section of Queens.

“We went through this process with my older son, so I’m a veteran at this now,” she said.

Sandra Aguilar told Jonathan he didn’t have to find the right high school that day. She told him to go ahead and gather whatever documents the schools — and and all of them — were handing out. They’d go home and sort through those handouts to decide which individual high schools to visit later.

“We just accept as many papers as we can and then decide which school open houses we want to go to after we leave today,” she said.

Jonathan said did not want to go to high school outside of his home borough of Queens. For three years, he’s watched his older brother get up early to take the subway into Manhattan and the High School of Art and Technology. Jonathan reasoned that if he went to school in Queens, closer to home, he could sleep a little later in the morning.

Bobbing his head along with the music playing through his bright green headphones, Jonathan said that he was interested in schools that offer technology courses because he loves video games.

As if helping Jonathan look at high schools wasn’t enough, Sandra Aguilar said she is also helping her older son consider colleges. “I’m very stressed,” she said.

But she never considered skipping the high school fair. Going to the fair helped Jonathan’s older brother find a high school where he has thrived, she said.

“We hope that Jonathan has a similar experience,” Sandra said. “So we’re going to just take it little by little until we find the right school for him.”

Sandra said that there are more schools represented at the fair this year than when she attended with Jonathan’s brother, and the application process in general is more complicated.

Out of earshot from his mother, taking pamphlets from school representatives, Jonathan said that the thing he really wanted in a school was a good academic program.

“As long as the academics are top notch, you can’t go wrong,” he said.

Rebecca Harris is a student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

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.