Vox populi

Comments of the week: A feud over breadth of Stuy cheating

This week kicked off with a bang, as the city named its pick to lead Stuyvesant High School. It has fizzled since then, so we’re moving our regular Friday feature to today and highlighting some extra-interesting comments our readers left on the news story about the new principal, Jie Zhang. On Friday, GothamSchools will publish only if there’s breaking news.

Zhang is taking over Stuyvesant after the Department of Education’s top officials intervened in a high-profile cheating scandal at the ultra-selective school. She told reporters that she didn’t think cheating was a major problem at Stuyvesant — also her children’s school — but that she would nonetheless work immediately to establish a culture of integrity.

Our readers were divided about the scope of the cheating problem Zhang will have to confront — and about whether she could be more honest about it. In the second comment on the story, “Yes” wrote:

If there is a widespread cheating problem … and there is ……..with the NUMEROUS facebook pages with kids posting their homework….is a principal whose own children may be knee deep in it the right choice?

Another reader, posting as “ActualStudent,” expressed a similar sentiment:

To have 2 children go to this school, and think this was an isolated incident?

Either lying or entirely oblivious.

“123” said there could be a very good reason that Zhang was out of the loop on cheating that did take place:

How is it surprising that she didn’t know?
Teenagers keep lots of secrets from their parents, and a group of cheaters is not necessarily a topic that comes up during dinner conversations.

Cheating is a dinner-table conversation for another commenter, parent, “rf486”:

My daughter will be a junior at another large specialized high school. When we discussed the cheating scandal at Stuy, as well as the market in amphetamines among high school students recently publicized in an article in the Times, she said, yes, some kids cheat, some kids take drugs to do better on tests or sell their drugs. But not all students, not most students. My guess is that it’s similar at Stuy.

ActualStudent responded with a quick rebuttal:

it’s not

Stuyvesant had plenty of cheating scandals while Jie Zhang was part of the PTA.

School wide scandals such as a departmental final examination having to be re-administered after a student obtained a copy and distributed it to the grade. These stories did not get passed around to the media, but were well known about within the school.

To be part of the PTA, and not hear about things like that…

Another commenter who said he was a Stuyvesant student, “Anonymous,” offered additional details about what cheating there looks like to him:

What’s worse is that the cheating that happens at Stuyvesant is on such a cooperative level. I remember being in classes where the entire student body worked together to cheat.

Cheating here is different from other schools, because the students are more clever in their methods of cheating.

Aside from the cheating issue, other commenters weighed in on whether Zhang was a good choice for the school. She has been a math teacher, assistant principal, principal, and network leader in the Department of Education.

One commenter, “Tim,” wrote that he was surprised more commenters did not praise that trajectory:

Any time there’s been a reason on this site to discuss a Leadership Academy or younger principal, inevitably there are comments about how principals should have extensive classroom experience, graduate to becoming an AP, and then grow into the principal’s role.

Here is someone who has taken pretty much exactly that route, and who has five years’ worth of experience as the principal of another selective exam school to boot, and in the span of four hours here we’ve seen her called a “Tweed stooge” and an “apparatchik,” and had it implied that she condones cheating and must have been a failure as a network leader.


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.