Justices reverse roles in Lobato decision

Last Tuesday’s Colorado Supreme Court 4-2 ruling in the Lobato v. State school funding case saw two court justices reversing the roles they played in an earlier Lobato ruling.

Justice Nancy Rice, an appointee of former Democratic Gov. Roy Romer, wrote the majority opinion declaring the state’s school finance system to be constitutional. But Rice was on the minority side of a 4-3 October 2009 decision that revived the Lobato lawsuit after it had been rejected by a district court and the Colorado court of appeals. She wrote a dissenting opinion at that time.

Chief Justice Michael Bender, another Romer appointee, wrote the majority opinion in 2009 and wrote a dissent to the latest ruling.

The justices who were on the court for both decisions were consistent in their votes.

Rice and justices Nathan Coats and Allison Eid were in the majority on the latest decision and were against reviving the suit in 2009. Justice Brian Boatwright, appointed in 2011 by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, provided the fourth vote for the May 28 ruling. Coats and Eid were appointed by Republican former Gov. Bill Owens.

In 2009 both Bender and Justice Gregory Hobbs were in the majority to revive Lobato but were on the losing side this week. (Like Rice, Hobbs was a Romer appointee.) The two other justices who voted with them in 2009, Mary Mullarky and Alex Martinez, later left the court.

One current justice, Monica Marquez, recused herself from the latest decision because she previously worked on the Lobato case as a member of the attorney general’s staff.

The governor chooses a new supreme court justice from a group of three nominees provided by a nominating commission. After an initial two-year term, justices stand for retention elections. Once retained, justices serve 10-year terms but must retire by age 72.

Read Rice’s May 28 opinion and Bender’s dissent here. See Bender’s 2009 opinion and Rice’s dissent here.

Better late than never

The State Board of Education, another seven-member body involved in Lobato, weighed in on the court’s ruling Friday afternoon, four days after the decision came out.

“The State Board is grateful that this case is over and that the funding of the school finance system is properly in the hands of the Colorado General Assembly and, ultimately, the people of the State of Colorado,” read a statement sent just before p.m.

The board was a defendant in the lawsuit, along with Gov. John Hickenlooper and education Commissioner Robert Hammond, who’s hired by the board.

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.