trailer talks

District 6 parents renew calls to move students out of classroom trailers

Parents rallied outside a Washington Heights elementary school again Friday to ask the city to speed up plans to move kindergarten students out of classroom trailers.

About 20 parents cheered as District 6 parent leaders explained the moldy conditions of two trailers behind P.S. 48 and called on the Department of Education to discuss how to remove the temporary classrooms more quickly. The rally extends the advocacy efforts of parents at P.S. 48, which started in April when parents described the conditions in the trailers as hazardous and requested that the trailers be removed.

The city has released a capital plan outlining how it plans to remove classroom trailers citywide—but as with many system-wide changes, it isn’t enough of a commitment for parents whose students are already dealing with the problem.

Miriam Aristy-Frer, president of the district’s Community Education Council, said she wants the city to prepare to close the trailers this summer, rather than have at least one more year of kindergarteners attend classes in them.

“We understand it’s a priority, but that is not good enough to give us a 2016 date. We do not want children in kindergarten in trailers for September 2014,” she said.

The Department of Education has said the trailers are safe and inspected regularly. A department spokeswoman said the department is monitoring the trailers, but that there is no “active” mold and that a leak in one trailer’s sink had been repaired last week.

The city’s capital budget proposes eliminating 300 classroom trailers across the city in the next five years, though the department has not committed to a date for removing the trailers from P.S. 48.

The budget also sets aside $3.3 billion to alleviate overcrowding in schools, but District 6 isn’t one of the districts slated to receive new seats. Adding to the complication, local education advocates say the issue could be resolved without building new classrooms.

Tory Frye, a parent and member of the education council, noted that P.S. 48’s problem doesn’t require additional space, since the school could move the two kindergarten classes into underused space in the building’s top floor that is used by District 75 administrators and the school support organization’s offices, she said.

“It’s administrative space, and it’s ridiculous how it could take more than a day to figure out,” Frye said.

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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.