transfer notice

City moves to make transfers easier for high school students

Students with long travel times to school may soon find it easier to learn close to home.

For years, the city has not allowed students to transfer high schools because of travel time unless their commute is longer than 90 minutes. But the Department of Education wants to reduce the required length by 15 minutes, according to a proposed rule change that was released today.

In another proposed rule change, students who seek to switch schools for safety reasons will no longer have to justify their request with a police report. Instead, according to the proposal, the department will consider transfer requests from students who are bullied or harassed at school.

Advocates praised the proposals, which face a school board vote later this month. It will also be welcome news for students whose long commute times were not enough to qualify for a transfer under existing department policies.

“I think a 90-minute commute is unrealistic,” said Insideschools editor Clara Hemphill. Many students voluntarily commute long distances to attend schools of their choice, “but to require them to do it ridiculous.”

The open high school admissions process allows middle school students to pick which high school they’d like to attend, but “a lot of kids sign up for schools not realizing how far away it is,” said Hemphill, whose web site helps families navigate the public school system. Once they realize the length of the commute, it’s usually too late to change schools.

Hemphill said long commute times is a contributing factor to chronic absenteeism.

The shortened 75-minute minimum commute time is still more than double what the average New Yorker’s commute is. But the time a student saves if he transferred to a school closer to the 35-minute average adds up to 10 days over the course of a school year.

Hemphill said it would also be welcomed by students who have unsuccessfully sought a transfer after their families moved, making commutes from new homes longer than they had anticipated.

Obtaining a transfer became increasingly difficult in 2003, when the city switched its high school admissions process to a system that matched students to schools based on mutual preference. Before then, a student could transfer if the schools’ two principals agreed to it.

The admissions system gave students more choice over which schools they wanted to attend, but the department was less flexible for those seeking to switch schools after they started. Transfers are granted in a handful of extreme scenarios: long commutes, a health issue or a safety risk.

The city is also revising the way that safety transfer requests will be considered. Now, “harassment, intimidation, and bullying are expressly made grounds for a safety transfer,” according to the proposed changes.

The Panel for Educational Policy, which has never rejected a city proposal, will vote on Dec. 20.

 

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.