For Civil Rights Museum, more student engagement is part of new design

PHOTO: G. Tatter
Teachers at the National Civil Rights Museum's first teacher institute discuss museum artifacts.

A group of white-gloved librarians and teachers recently huddled around a table at the National Civil Rights Museum, examining artifacts of unknown origin — at least, unknown to them.

They were at the museum’s inaugural teacher institute this week to learn how to better use the museum as an educational resource for their students, as well as teach museum administrators how to be more responsive to new curriculums and standards.

“I wanted to ask teachers how the museum can be applied in their classrooms, because they know their classrooms better than I do,” the museum’s education coordinator Jody Stokes-Casey said.

The National Civil Rights Museum was one of the first civil rights museums in the country when it opened in 1991 at the site where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The museum recently underwent a $28 million reconstruction, and reopened this spring.

The educators were wearing the gloves to handle some museum artifacts, carefully chosen by Stokes-Casey and Leila Hamdan, a registrar at the museum. “Nothing too fragile or easily lost,” Hamdan explained.

The group practiced “visual thinking strategies,” which included asking four different types of questions about an object: description, analysis, interpretation, and judgement. Half of the teachers studied red-and-black patches worn during the civil rights era, while the other half focused on a bronze statue of Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I have a dream," by Chris Sharp, is a cast bronze statue in the National Civil Rights Museum collection.
PHOTO: G. Tatter
“I have a dream,” by Chris Sharp, is a cast bronze statue in the National Civil Rights Museum collection.

“It looks like a drop of blood,” Dave Barrett, the content director for social studies in Shelby County Schools, said to his group mates who were looking at the red-and-black patches. “Does that mean the wearer would be willing to shed blood? Someone else’s, or their own?”

Stokes-Casey, a former arts teacher with a degree from the University of Memphis’s graduate art and museum studies programs, eventually answered Barrett’s questions. (Spoiler alert: the patches belonged to Ku Klux Klan members, and the drop of blood was intended to invoke Christian imagery). But she couldn’t answer many of the other group’s questions about the statue because the artist, Chris Sharp, did not provide much information.

Sometimes, Stokes-Casey told the teachers, inquiry is as important as answers for student learning. “You just make the interpretation, and sometimes that’s all you need,” she said.

A second teacher institute will be held July 22, and registration is still open.

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.