Shelby County Schools closes Tuesday, reflecting needs of suburban, rural students

Schools in Shelby County, Nashville, and several other Tennessee districts will remain closed for a second day Tuesday after a winter storm that passed through the region on Sunday and Monday.

Schools in state-run Achievement School District and Catholic schools in Memphis are also closed Tuesday. The ACT has been rescheduled for Thursday, March 6. The district’s meetings regarding proposed rezoning plans have also been rescheduled. Administrative staff will report to work at 10 a.m.

Monday’s announcement reflected the newly-merged, 140,000-student Shelby County district’s efforts to serve urban, suburban, and rural students from legacy Memphis City and legacy Shelby County schools:

All schools will be closed Tuesday, March 4, 2014 due to inclement weather. While many city roads are clear, many rural areas of our district are still experiencing dangerous road conditions.

Tuesday will be Shelby County’s fourth day off due to inclement weather this year. The district’s inclement weather closings – and decisions to not close school when weather is iffy – have created a virtual blizzard of comments on social media sites. More than 125 people commented on the district’s Facebook post announcing plans to close school on Monday.

Earlier this winter, there were more than 400 comments on the district’s plans to keep school open despite wintry weather:

Many of the commenters were rural and suburban Shelby County citizens who criticized the district for keeping schools open. “Please remember Collierville is still part of Shelby County School system and we had snow covered roads this morning and had to get out and take our kids to school in it. I dint like driving in it,” read one post. “SCS you need to go back to school because this is a VERY ignorant and uneducated decision to keep these schools open!!! SHAME ON YOU SCS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” read another.

On Sunday, Commercial Appeal reporter Zach McMillian, who wrote extensively about the school system merger and subsequent demerger, reminded his followers on social media about how plans for six brand-new school systems in Memphis’s suburbs will affect how snow announcements look next year:

On Monday afternoon, Shelby County school board members Kevin Woods and David Reaves were among the local officials discussing the district’s plans for Tuesday on social media:

@gochristhomas @HowellMarketing I’m sure Superintendent Hopson and @SCSK12Unified will make right call. Hopefully sooner than later.

— KevinWoods (@KevinWoods) March 3, 2014

The author of another social media account that was created in February was critical of Shelby County’s decision to keep schools open despite precipitation on a cold day in February. But today the account’s output was short and simple:


— Is SCS closed yet? (@PlzSCS) March 3, 2014


So a snow day is not always just about weather: While Shelby County’s announcement today highlighted the district’s awareness of students outside the city center, in New York, new mayor Bill DeBlasio has kept schools open on a handful of snowy days, telling parents the decision to keep students home from schools is in their hands. Here’s Chalkbeat NY’s close-read of that snow day policy.

A Shelby County snow day in early January spurred a coat drive aimed at providing many of the district’s poverty-stricken students with winter-appropriate garb, as local residents were moved by reports that many students didn’t have proper attire to stand out in the cold weather.

Research shows that many parents keep their children home during inclement weather regardless of whether school is officially open or not.


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

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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.