the gotv effort

"Vote for Somebody" students take to the street for Election Day

Students from Democracy Prep charter schools wore T-shirts that said "I can't vote" on the front and "But you can!" on the back as they urged people in Harlem to vote today.

Harlem Prep Middle School is one of 32 charter schools housed in public space that the Department of Education allowed to stay open today, while its own schools are closed in honor of Election Day.

In between classes, students from the school — part of the Democracy Prep network of charter schools — are spending the day reminding the residents of Harlem to exercise their right to vote.

Harlem Prep students staked out First Avenue between 100th and 106th Street today while five other groups of Democracy Prep students canvassed Harlem all the way up to 145th Street.

The get-out-the-vote activities reflect the network’s emphasis on civics. Last month, Democracy Prep students also starred in a music video that exhorted viewers to “Vote for Somebody.

“I can’t vote but you can!” Mykev, a sixth-grader at Harlem Prep, eagerly chanted to those passing by. Some people barely broke their stride but others said they appreciated the students’ efforts and shared in their enthusiasm.

Since its founding six years ago, Democracy Prep students have helped nearly 5,000 citizens in Harlem register to vote, according to the network.

Katie Duffy, chief operating officer at Democracy Prep, said she was especially excited that some of the students who participated in the first “I Can’t Vote, But You Can” campaign six years ago, are now themselves old enough to vote. Three of them were certified as poll workers this year, according to the network.

Harlem Prep students had some ideas of political issues that the presidential candidates needed to address. Several of them mentioned education, but at least one student was thinking about problems he might encounter in the future.

“The unemployment rate is really high,” said sixth-grader Mike.

Most of the students at Harlem Prep Elementary School seemed to favor Obama, chanting the president’s name on the street along with neighborhood residents. But teachers quickly reminded the students to remain nonpartisan.

“It’s not our choice, it’s theirs,” sixth-grader Mykev reminded his classmates.

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.