Inglewood residents were shocked to discover after a teacher had been assaulted at Jere Baxter Alternative School last spring that there is no police officer in this school specifically designed to hold students that have 'issues'. In fact, neither of the alternative schools had a police officer. There was only one campus supervisor assigned to the school that day of the assault. I was told that campus supervisors do not carry weapons and aren't required to have any formal security training. That made no sense.
Residents had known for some time that the students in this school made a habit of being delivered by city buses to the building and promptly heading into the neighborhood or neighborhood businesses. Local merchants had to take it upon themselves to chase the students off in an effort to keep them from intimidating their legitimate customers. Police cars regularly appear at Baxter ALC. It's hard for mere citizens to see the wisdom of letting something happen and then calling for a police officer when having one there and available could head off serious trouble.
When the police department was called and asked about why there was no police officer in the school they said it was the call of Metro Schools. When I asked Metro Schools they said it was a police department decision. What became clear was that no one was stepping up. The Inglewood Neighborhood Association invited school board rep, Gracie Porter to the May 2007 meeting to discuss the recent assault, the loitering and the lack of a police officer. She provided some basic information regarding the school, the churning of the student body population and the turnover in administration there to give us a larger picture of the situation. She also told us that she learned the day before that Nashville Chief of Police Ronal Serpas , MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia and Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Ralph Thompson were going to meet about discipline issues and police presence in schools the next week. When she was asked if she was going to attend considering how concerned we all were about this issue her reply was "I'm not going to crash Serpas' meeting." She did say she expected some restructuring to be done by the next school year that could help the situation.
So Thursday we read in the Tennessean that there is talk about school systems creating their own police forces. The legislature created a study committee (they're very good at that). The legislation is HB1765/SB1451 sponsored by State Rep. Ulysses Jones (D-Memphis) and State Senator Reginald Tate (D-Shelby County) . I'm very concerned about this. My biggest concern is that we'll not have any way of knowing exactly what has happened on those campuses. I look back at college campuses that regularly didn't report serious crimes out of concern for their image. The same could easily occur in MNPS. The Tennessean wrote:
The school district Tuesday released statistics on student offenses in Metro during the 2006-07 school year, but they weren't broken down by school.And that's exactly correct. They report this information by cluster. There is no way for a parent to know if the school their child attends is safe, let alone exactly what happened and how many times. These are our children. We have a responsibility to ensure their safety. We have a right to know as much as possible about how safe they are while there.
And the Tennessean reports the disincentive there will be if MNPS is allowed to handle all these issues:
KnoxNews has an article on this issue also. The issue of who will pay for this is huge and they provide some important editorial comments about that.
But creating a self-run police department can put school districts at odds with the federal No Child Left Behind law, which requires states track the number of serious incidents that occur at a school. If over three consecutive years a school meets the "unsafe" requirements defined by law, students are allowed to transfer to another school.
Because police officers are responsible for recording some incidents in school, an officer employed by the school district could have an added interest in making sure a school in his district doesn't wind up on the list.
It might make things simpler for the school systems, but it would make things more expensive for the taxpayers.The push is on to create taxing authority for local school boards. Can you see it coming? Not only do we need more money to get the job of education done (as if money was the answer) now we'll need more money to create a police system. We are underfunding MPD, how are we going to afford to create an MNPS-PD?
The public education system has lost its focus. Every year, for what seems like good reasons their mission expands. It currently includes feeding, clothing, nursing, transporting, parenting and now policing children. All the while the original mission fails regularly. The school system doesn't need to expand. It's my opinion we should let the school system do the teaching and let the police department handle the crime.
For further info:
National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officers (NASSLEO).