seeking a match

Voices from the 2013 high school search: Roselyn Jimenez

Roselyn Jimenez

Roselyn Jimenez, 12, was on the verge of tears when she entered the cafeteria packed with students and school booths for the Manhattan high school fair. “I don’t want to be here,” she said.

Jimenez said she was overwhelmed partly at the chaos in the room but also, in a larger sense, at the thought of growing up. “I’m not ready for high school,” she said. “It’s scary.”

Jimenez said that most of her friends at M.S. 319 want to go to George Washington High School, but she doesn’t.  “They think it’s going to be like middle school,” she said. But she thinks George Washington would be much different from middle school. “It has a lot of gangs,” she said.

Before the fair, Jimenez said, she didn’t know what high school she wanted to go to, or even what questions to ask to find out. Her mother, Ingrid Mota, pulled her from Inwood Academy Charter School this year and moved her to M.S. 319 because she didn’t think her daughter was learning enough. “She was having problems with other girls, like gossip, he-said, she-said,” said Mota.

Because of the change in middle schools, Jimenez said, she still hadn’t met her counselor at M.S. 319, and hadn’t received any guidance at school for how to apply to high schools.

Jimenez said her favorite school activity is drawing, but she had not kept any of her drawings to put into a portfolio required for the schools specializing in art.

Jimenez saw the “uniform school” sign taped above the New York Lab’s School’s booth and stepped backward. She shook her head and said, “No.” But her mom approached the booth anyway, even as her daughter — with four earrings in one ear, color added to her hair, stretch pants and a black sports jacket — refused to come any closer.

At the booth for the Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology, student Alec Cruz, a junior, immediately read Jimenez’s body language and said, “You’re not that into this, are you?” Cruz ended up chatting with Jimenez, offering stories about how the school offers bonfires, games, and other programs to help ninth graders acclimate.

“It sounds cool. They take the new kids and help them bond with each other,” said Jimenez.

Socializing is something Jimenez prides herself on. She sent text messages frequently during the fair and said she has more than 6,000 friends and followers on Facebook. “They call me Facebook famous,” Jimenez said.

A social connection finally drew Jimenez’s interest in a school. When she saw the booth for the Global Language Collaborative, a high school on the Upper West Side, she remembered that a friend had attended the school and gone on a trip with teachers and students to China.

“I love traveling. It’s exciting because you’re in a new place,” said Jimenez. She has already visited the Dominican Republic with her family and toured the American South with her sister and cousin, where she got to see Dolly Parton. Based on that, she said she liked Global Language Collaborative. Maybe, she said, she’d go on some cool trips in high school.

Mota looked up, as if thanking the heavens, and said, “At least she likes one school.”

Oliver Morrison is a student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

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.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede