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Highbridge Green School students present a project their parents helped design

Our recent story about the Highbridge Green School highlighted a unique collaboration between parents and teachers, who worked together to plan an English unit for the school’s first class of sixth graders.

Fueled by parents’ desire to continue shaping the new school they helped create, the co-planned unit included an interview project that students worked on at home. We visited the school last month when students shared their projects at a fair in the cafeteria.

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Aliesse Doucoure interviewed her father about his immigration story.

“It was kind of hard, but I felt like I was prepared,” Aliesse Doucoure said, describing the process leading up to the fair.

After reading “Dragon Wings,” a book about a Chinese boy who immigrated to the United States, Doucoure and her classmates interviewed parents and community members — and in at least one case, a teacher — who had their own immigration experiences to share.

“I was learning information I never knew,” Doucoure said of the interview with her father. “He’s this strong person. So when he told me he was afraid on his way here, it shocked me.”

In class, students wrote essays comparing the perspectives they read in the book and heard in their interviews. At home, with parents’ support, they made colorful posters with information about China or the countries where their parents were born.

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Haley Alonso, right, with classmates, said she’d never spoken to her father about his journey from Cuba before the project.

Standing by her poster, Haley Alonso said she had never asked her dad about his experience immigrating from Cuba until she interviewed him for this project.

“It was a little hard talking to my dad about stuff like where he came from,” Alonso said. “I don’t really talk to him about stuff like that.” She said she was surprised to learn that her dad came to the United States in a plane instead of a boat.

Adrian Serrata was seven years old when he and his mom, Margarita Serrata, moved from the Dominican Republic, so the broad strokes of her story weren’t new to him. But he said the interview helped him learn about what the shared experience felt like for her.

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Margarita and Adrian Serrata discussed their trip from the Dominican Republic to the Bronx together.

As an example, he described the plane ride, which he remembers as the scariest moment of the trip. But his mom “felt more confident,” he said, because she was older and had been on a plane before.

Margarita said in Spanish that alongside his curiosity about the plane ride, Adrian wanted to know “what was different between being here and my country and how I adapted here, to another culture and language.”

“We’ve lived it all together, and I’m still here pushing him,” Margarita added, alluding to the central role parents played in this project, sharing their experiences and helping their kids prepare posters at home.

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.