the scene

Sharpton cedes time to Barron, who calls for Klein to be fired

On day two of the convention he is jointly throwing with Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, the Rev. Al Sharpton ceded his time on a panel to a City Council member who promptly called on Mayor Bloomberg to fire Klein. The panel’s members were a collection of allies of Klein’s, including two mayors who support mayoral control of schools, but Council Member Charles Barron called the system “dictatorial” and “autocratic” and said that in New York City it has actually made the public schools worse.

Barron also criticized Klein, who stood about 50 feet away from him waiting to join the panel, saying that the chancellor lacks any pedagogical expertise. “He definitely should go,” Barron told me after his remarks. “He shouldn’t ever have been hired.”

Sharpton said he asked Barron to speak because he wanted the event, which was sponsored by his National Action Network along with the Education Equality Project he started with Klein, to offer views from both sides of the debate on mayoral control. “If EEP is going to be anything, we’re going to hear all views,” Sharpton said. “The main thing is to change the conversation.” Sharpton yesterday told the New York Times that he supports revising mayoral control.

In his comments, Klein strongly defended the idea of mayoral control of the public schools, saying that it has allowed the city to begin to close the racial achievement gap. Klein made little reference to Barron’s criticsm, but he did make an oblique nod. “How long are we going to continue with all of the adult politics before we help our children?” he asked.

Other panelists included the former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings; the mayor of D.C., Adrian Fenty; the mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson; and the president of the United Negro College Fund, Michael Lomax. All of them endorsed Klein’s view that giving control of the public schools to a mayor rather than a school board allows for more accountability.

Several members of the audience disputed that view. Members of a group that pushes for revising the mayoral control law when it comes up for renewal this summer wore pins supporting their position and passed out fliers advertising their views. Several critics also challenged Klein’s characterization of improvements made under his watch, saying that students are graduating without being prepared for college and that schools lack black history teaching.

A Harlem father, Vernon Ballard, said he lacks a voice in the school system — and leaders are not held accountable — when the mayor has total control.

“There is accountability,” Klein replied. “You have the chance to express your voice here.” Many members of the audience broke into laughter.

There was one opinion everyone seemed to share, first raised by Johnson, the Sacramento mayor who also runs a network of charter schools that recently opened a New York City branch. Johnson explained that he only got involved in politics after he faced political resistance from opening a charter school. “Educating our kids is the most political thing that we can do in this country,” he said.

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.