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DCPS provides teachers recommendations on how to discuss Michael Brown in the classroom

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WASHINGTON -

The controversy over the shooting of Michael Brown is only a few weeks old. But it may be already making its way into the classroom. D.C. Public Schools issued new guidance to teachers on how to talk about the controversy surrounding the shooting of the unarmed teenager in Missouri.

The teacher's guide is only five pages long, but there is a lot in these pages. Among them is instruction to teachers to be ready to face questions about what happened in Ferguson.

Teachers are not being told what to say. But instead, it is being aimed at making sure it is the students who get their say.

"We know that it's going to come up," said Dr. Robert Simmons, Chief of Innovation and Research for D.C. Public Schools.

At Chancellor Kaya Henderson's request, Dr. Simmons has written a five-page document giving teachers guidelines about how to talk about the racial conflict in Ferguson.

"If you just launch out into this this without any framework, it could quickly hop off the track and be really bad, really quickly,” he said.

The document does not tell teachers what to say about Ferguson, the shooting of Brown or the police. But it does warn teachers to be ready for questions in class and the emotions that may soon follow.

“I think it is a good idea,” said Elizabeth Davis, President of the Washington Teachers Union.

She cautions though that the key will be tailoring the conversation for the age of the students.

"It's a little risky because teachers are afraid to go outside of the guidelines set by the school district -- as they should be,” said Davis. “We've got to be very cautious about what parents want their children to hear in the classroom.”

Clearly though, Ferguson is an issue with no easy answers. But the question is should issues like the shooting of Brown be better left at the dinner table or while in the classroom?

Parents we spoke to say the document is a good idea.

"Children need to know about it,” said Denise Jackson, a parent of a D.C. Public Schools student. “Racism is still very real, whether people want to talk about it or not, it's happening every day.”

"It should come up in the classroom,” said parent George West. “We have to educate our youth, have them knowing what's going on in the world so they can be better prepared in the future."

With only two days of school under their belt, D.C. Public Schools officials aren't sure if any of their teachers have used the talking points yet. But if they need them, they are there.

"It is a delicate situation,” said Dr. Simmons. “It requires some finance and it requires at the core of what we do is the relationship between the teacher and the student.”

The recommendations also encourage teachers to tell students if they should feel strongly about the unrest in Ferguson, that the student should do something. But what is that something? According to the recommendations, that could be writing a newspaper article, donating to a cause or even attending a public demonstration.

Online:

D.C. Public Schools - Preparing to Discuss Michael Brown in the Classroom


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