wayback wednesday

Tragedy that brought police to city schools inspired 1958 series

Some city principals would like to see schools reduce their police presence.

But in 1958, principals couldn’t even get the police to swing by — a policy that might have driven one school leader to suicide.

That’s the story behind a series that appeared that year in the New York World Telegram & Sun. Masquerading as a teacher-hopeful, reporter George Allen landed a job at John Marshall Junior High School in Brooklyn, where violence among students the previous spring had driven Principal George Goldfarb to request a police presence.

Mayor Robert Wagner had for the previous year been resisting placing police around schools — there were 819 at the time — because of the unsavory images of armed officials who had tried to keep black students out of schools that were being integrated, according to the New York Daily News.

According to the Daily News,

George Goldfarb was 55 years old, 33 years in the system, and he was suffering the displeasure of his superiors. Personally, he very much wanted police in his school, where, among other things, a 13-year-old blind girl had recently been assaulted in a stairwell, and he had gone before the grand jury and said so out loud. This was, of course, directly contrary to stated Board of Ed policy, and he had been spoken to. At 10 a.m. Jan. 28, he was due before the jury again. Instead, he wearily climbed to the roof of his six-story Eastern Parkway apartment building and jumped. …

Abruptly, the Board of Education agreed. Cops at once began patrolling several dozen of the city’s most troubled schools “If the board had done the day before Mr. Goldfarb died what they did the day after he died,” snapped jury foreman A. George Golden, “he still would be alive” and Wagner announced a plan to segregate chronically unruly students into special schools of their own.

When Allen arrived the following fall for a two-month teaching stint, he found little outright violence. More common, he reported, were defiant students and students who were ill-prepared for their classes, teachers who did not always try to reach struggling students, and copy machines that did not work.

John Marshall Junior High School became P.S./M.S. 394 in 1990. That school continues to operate and now shares space with Explore Empower Charter School.

Allen’s 15-part account of his teaching experience is newly available online as the result of an effort to collect important pieces of investigative reporting at a single database. In 1960, an expanded version of the series was released as a book titled “Undercover Teacher.”

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.