Tuesday Churn: New DCTA suit response

Updated – The legal volleys continue in the battle between Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association on the subject of innovation schools, with the union’s filing on Monday of a response to the district’s earlier motion for dismissal of a lawsuit.

The DCTA sued the district in June over DPS’s approval of 10 new innovation schools, most of them in Denver’s Far Northeast, claiming that they were green-lighted in defiance of key provisions in the 2008 Innovation School Act.

That law requires that at least a 60 percent majority of the staffs at the affected schools vote their support of innovation status; the union’s contention is that DPS broke the law by seeking innovation status for the schools before their staffs were in place – preventing such a vote from being taken.

The union, representing roughly 4,000 DPS teachers, is asking that a judge either reverse the granting of the schools’ innovation status or that votes of the schools’ staffs now be taken.

In its motion to dismiss, DPS had argued that “mandamus” ­ a court order to a government entity ­ cannot be used to force a government body, such as the school district, to undo something which has already been done, as the union was asking. “It can neither be used to invalidate an action already taken nor to prevent an official from performing an action in the future,” the district had contended.

But the union’s new filing argues otherwise. Saying the district acted “unilaterally” in approving the schools, it asserts “there was no opportunity” for the DCTA to be heard during the decision-making process, leaving an after-the-fact reversal by the courts as its only legal remedy.

Lawyers for DPS now have until Sept. 26 to file a reply brief to the latest DCTA filing, after which District Judge Ann B.  Frick is expected to set a hearing date for the district’s motion to dismiss the action.

Read the latest DCTA filing in the case here.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock this morning sent a clear signal that he will endorse candidates in at least some of the three Denver school board races.

Speaking to a meeting of the A-Plus Denver citizens group, Hancock said it is “more than likely I will make endorsements.” He said he has interviewed all but one candidate for the three contested seats and will decide whom to endorse once the interviews are complete.

As a candidate for mayor earlier this year, Hancock made Denver Public Schools a campaign issue, even though the mayor has no control over the school district. Hancock told A-Plus members he did so against the advice of some of his advisors, because he believes a stronger school system would have a positive impact on all other aspects of the city.

In the city-wide at-large race, where the seat is open, Hancock would choose among five candidates: John Daniel, Frank Deserino, Happy Haynes, Roger Kilgore and Jacqui Shumway. In southeast Denver’s District 1, Anne Rowe and Emily Sirota are vying for the open seat. And in northwest Denver’s District 5, Jennifer Draper Carson is taking on incumbent Arturo Jimenez.

Hancock also told A-Plus that despite his campaign’s focus on DPS, and his likely endorsements, he has no designs on mayoral control of the school system.

“Between me and my God, there is no way I want to run the schools,” he said.

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

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.