Colorado

Thursday Churn: Discipline debate

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

A new report, “Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice,” argues that disproportionately large numbers of minority students in the U.S. are being removed from schools for relatively minor infractions and that overuse and abuse of zero tolerance polices and other forms of student discipline are having a detrimental effect on student achievement.

The report, by Dan Losen of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, was released in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Kevin Welner, director of the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center, which commissioned and published the Losen study, said at the news conferene, “Although our society is more diverse than ever before, schools today are more segregated than they were 30 years ago. It’s important to understand the link between diversity, discipline and academic achievement. The evidence presented by Losen shows that minority students are treated more harshly when it comes to discipline, and as a result of this harsh treatment they suffer academically.” Link to the study

Meanwhile, members of the Colorado Legislative Task Force to Study Discipline are considering proposing a comprehensive discipline law reform bill to the 2012 legislature. (You can read the current draft here.) The panel meets again on Oct. 18 to discuss the draft (committee website).

Theresa Peña, outgoing Denver school board member, has received one of five 2011 Education Warrior Awards from Democrats for Education reform. Peña will continue to be a figure on the city’s education scene as head of Mayor Michael Hancock’s Denver Education Compact. DFER news release

In case you missed it: A Denver judge has denied the Colorado Education Association’s request for a preliminary injunction suspending the state regulation that requires schools to notify parents of teacher arrests. Details

What’s on tap:

Officials of the University of Colorado Denver and the Colorado Community College System are holding a 10 a.m. news conference to announce a new “admission promise” for community college graduates looking to pursue a bachelor’s degree at UCD. School leaders are billing as “the first public university program of its kind in the Denver Metro area to provide an added but essential component of on-campus advising from the University of Colorado Denver as part of its transfer guarantee.”

EdNews understands that the program will mean that community college students who sign on for the program as they begin their community college experience will be eligible for a direct transfer into UCD and will receive intensive advising from UCD academic advisors. The initiative will involve the Arapahoe, Aurora, Denver, Front Range and Red Rocks community colleges.

The event will be held at the North Classroom Building of the Auraria Higher Education Center.

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education meets starting at 10 a.m. at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. Much of the commission’s time at meetings this fall will be devoted to work on the higher education master plan called for by 2011 legislation. Agenda

Jefferson County school board members meet at 5 p.m. in closed session to discuss their superintendent’s evaluation. The public portion is scheduled to begin about 6 p.m. at 1829 Denver West Drive in Golden. The agenda includes discussion on a motion to support Proposition 103, the statewide ballot initiative to raise taxes to increase education funding.

Denver Public Schools board members meet at 4:30 p.m. in closed session to discuss their superintendent’s evaluation. They convene in public at about 5:30 p.m. for a work session focusing on the district’s School Performance Framework results and Denver Plan goals. Agenda

All nine candidates for the three Denver Public Schools board of education seats on the Nov. 1 ballot are expected tonight for a candidate forum sponsored by Metro Organizations for People. The event is set for 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Bruce Randolph School, 3955 Steele St. Desserts, Spanish interpretation and child care will be provided.

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.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede