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Current Events Classroom

About Current Events Classroom

Shepard Byrd Obama Hate Crimes Prevention Act
President Barack Obama greets Louvon Harris, left, and Betty Byrd Boatner, right (both sisters of James Byrd, Jr.) and Judy Shepard, center, mother of Matthew Shepard, October 28, 2009
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

The Current Events Classroom is a collection of timely and relevant brief lesson plans that assist K-12 educators in teaching news topics and other issues of the day. Each lesson helps students analyze the topic through an anti-bias, diversity and social justice lens. [Download Lesson PDF]

Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act Fifth Anniversary

Summary

On October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA). The HCPA allows the federal government to provide assistance in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes—or, in limited circumstances, to investigate and prosecute hate crime cases when a locality is unable or unwilling to prosecute. Second, it ensures that crimes which target their victims because of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability are all covered by the law.

Because the law commemorates its fifth anniversary on October 28, 2014, it is a good opening to discuss the hate crimes law with students. This lesson provides an opportunity for middle and high school students to understand the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, learn about how hate escalates, connect the understanding of the escalation of hate with Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr.’s murders and consider what young people can do in their schools and communities to prevent hate crimes.

Grade Level

6-12

Common Core Anchor Standards

Reading, Speaking and Listening


[Download PDF]

Elementary School Lessons

Who Is Malala Yousafzai? (PDF)
Malala Yousafzai, a 2014 Nobel Peace Prize at age seventeen, is the youngest person to ever receive the award. This lesson helps students learn about Malala, why she won the prize and explores what it means to be an activist. (Grades 4-7)

Mo'Ne Davis and Gender Stereotypes (PDF)
Mo'Ne Davis, a 13 year old girl, has made news headlines because of her distinction in Little League Baseball. This elementary lesson provides an opportunity for students to learn more about Mo'Ne Davis and explore gender stereotypes about sports and in other areas of their lives.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: 7 Ways to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary (PDF)
students learn more about the history of discrimination and racism in the United States, the struggle for civil rights, the Civil Rights Act, and the strides we have made as well as the work that remains to be done. (Grades K-12)

Identity-Based Bullying (PDF)
When bullying targets aspects of a person’s identity, it is called identity-based bullying, and may include bias about appearance, race, culture, gender and gender expression, language, religion, socioeconomic status, disability and sexual orientation. This lesson will help students define and understand identity-based bullying, reflect on experiences they have had and analyze scenarios and come up with potential solutions. (Grades 2-5)

Who Am I? Identity Poems (PDF)
April is National Poetry Month, which is a good opportunity to explore poetry with your students. This lesson provides an opportunity for children to learn more about poetry, understand the role of metaphors and comparisons in poetry and reflect on aspects of their identity in order to write an acrostic poem about themselves. (Grades 2-5)

Toys and Gender (PDF)
Holiday season is a time of year when children and families think about buying toys for children. In our society, very few toys are free of gender packaging and most toys are either associated with girls or boys. This lesson will give students the opportunity to learn about and reflect on how toys are influenced by gender stereotypes and how children and their families are impacted by those messages. (Grades K-3) UPDATE: Subsequent adaptations of this lesson have been included for PreK students.

What is Marriage Equality? (PDF)
This lesson provides an opportunity for students to explore marriage equality, gain background information about it, and reflect on their own thoughts and feelings about marriage equality. UPDATE: As of October 2014, the U.S. Constitution guarantees marriage equality for same-sex couples in 25 states plus District of Columbia. (Grades 4-8)

MIddle School Lessons (Recent)

Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act Fifth Anniversary (PDF)
Provides an opportunity for students to understand the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, learn about how hate escalates and consider what young people can do in their schools and communities to prevent hate crimes. (Grades 6-12)

Who Is Malala Yousafzai? (PDF)
Malala Yousafzai, a 2014 Nobel Peace Prize at age seventeen, is the youngest person to ever receive the award. This lesson helps students learn about Malala, why she won the prize and explores what it means to be an activist. (Grades 4-7)

Who are the Children at Our Border? (PDF)
Students will learn about the unaccompanied children at the U.S. border, read and reflect on two children’s stories and consider their opinion about the situation and what to do about it by writing a persuasive letter. (Grades 7-12)

Student Dress Codes: What's Fair? (PDF)
Students reflect on their own opinions regarding student dress codes, identify school and students needs and perspectives and design their own dress codes that satisfy both student and school needs. (Grades 6-12)

Civil Rights Act of 1964: 7 Ways to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary (PDF)
Lesson provides an opportunity to teach and learn more about the history of discrimination and racism in the United States, the struggle for civil rights, the Civil Rights Act, and the strides we have made as well as the work that remains to be done. (Grades K-12)

What is Weight Bias (PDF)
Students will discuss and define weight bias, identify stereotypes about overweight and obese people and explore what can be done about weight bias in their classroom, school and society at large. UPDATE: As of October 2014, the U.S. Constitution guarantees marriage equality for same-sex couples in 25 states plus District of Columbia. (Grades 4-8)

60 Years Later: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education (PDF)
Students will learn more about the Brown v. Board of Education ruling and study two infographics in order to analyze and reflect on the modern day “school-to-prison pipeline” and the opportunity gap that both exist in our public schools. (Grades 6-12)

Responses to Bias: Donald Sterling of the L.A. Clippers (PDF)
Students learn more about Donald’s Sterling’s racist statements, discuss what they would do in certain stakeholder roles and explore the different responses. (Grades 6-12)

Middle School Lessons

Who Was César Chávez? (PDF)
Students learn more about César Chávez, the strategies he used to create change for the migrant farm workers and to analyze and reflect on modern day civil rights and labor struggles. (Grades 6-12)

Stereotypes of Girls and Women in the Media (PDF)
Lesson provides an opportunity for students to critically examine certain media forms and their portrayals of women and girls. This is a two-part lesson that requires the students to conduct investigative work in between the two sessions. (Grades 6-12)

The Sound of Silence in Football: Derrick Coleman (PDF)
In this lesson, students will discuss this inspiring football player, learn more about Derrick Coleman’s life and reflect on a story written by a deaf teenager.

Nelson Mandela: ‘A True Hero of Conscience’ (PDF)
In celebration and memory of the life of Nelson Mandela, this lesson provides students the opportunity to learn, in several ways, more about Nelson Mandela and his extraordinary life.

What is Marriage Equality? (PDF)
Lesson provides an opportunity for students to explore marriage equality, gain background information about it, and reflect on their own thoughts and feelings about marriage equality. (Grades 4-8)

High School Lessons (Recent)

Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act Fifth Anniversary (PDF)
Provides an opportunity for students to understand the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, learn about how hate escalates and consider what young people can do in their schools and communities to prevent hate crimes. Also see Analyzing Hate Crimes Statistics (PDF). (Grades 6-12)

Who are the Children at Our Border? (PDF)
Students will learn about the unaccompanied children at the U.S. border, read and reflect on two children’s stories and consider their opinion about the situation and what to do about it by writing a persuasive letter. (Grades 7-12)

Student Dress Codes: What's Fair? (PDF)
Students reflect on their own opinions regarding student dress codes, identify school and students needs and perspectives and design their own dress codes that satisfy both student and school needs. (Grades 6-12)

Privilege, Discrimination and Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System (PDF)
Students learn about unearned privilege, examine racial disparities in the criminal justice system and explore the role of privilege in the different interactions white and people of color have with law enforcement.

What is Happening in Ferguson, MO? (PDF)
Students learn about the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown and reflect on their thoughts and feelings about the case, analyze the militarization of the police and explore activism.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: 7 Ways to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary (PDF)
ADL presents this special edition lesson that includes a variety of teaching strategies and resources to help you commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act with your students. (Grades K-12)

60 Years Later: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education (PDF)
Students will learn more about the Brown v. Board of Education ruling and will study two infographics in order to analyze and reflect on the modern day “school-to-prison pipeline” and the opportunity gap. (Grades 6-12)

On the Rise: Anti-Semitism in Europe (PDF)
Provides an opportunity to define anti-Semitism, identify and categorize incidences of anti-Semitism, gain an understanding of the Pyramid of Hate and learn more about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.

Get Regular Updates

The Current Events Classroom is a collection of timely and relevant lesson plans that assist K-12 educators in teaching news topics and other issues of the day.

If you want to receive an update every time there is a new Current Events Classroom lesson (could be as often as weekly), send an email with your request to educationcurriculum@adl.org.

High School Lessons

Transgender Identity and Issues (PDF)
Students learn about transgender identity and issues, the barriers faced by people who identify as transgender or are gender non-conforming and how we can make schools safe and welcoming for them.

Responses to Bias: Donald Sterling of the L.A. Clippers (PDF)
Students learn more about Donald’s Sterling’s racist statements, discuss what they would do in certain stakeholder roles and explore the different responses. (Grades 6-12)

What is the Dream Act and Who are the Dreamers? (PDF)
Students learn about the DREAM Act, reflect on different perspectives about it and identify their own opinion to defend in writing.

Who Was César Chávez? (PDF)
Students learn about César Chávez, the strategies he used to create change for the migrant farm workers and to analyze and reflect on modern day civil rights and labor struggles. (Grades 6-12)

Stereotypes of Girls and Women in the Media (PDF)
Provides an opportunity for students to critically examine certain media forms and their portrayals of women and girls. Students will consider how media shapes public perception and can perpetuate bias.

Microaggressions In Our Lives (PDF)
Students explore what microaggressions are, how they have experienced them and what can be done to counteract them.

Bias, Bullying and Bad Behavior in the NFL (PDF)
Students reflect on the news story about two Miami Dolphins football players in a situation involving bullying and bias.

Self-Defense and Racial Profiling (PDF)
Students will discuss the homicide of Renisha McBride, who was shot to death while seeking help after being in a car accident and analyze the role of self-defense and racial profiling. In both cases the shooter was white and also similar was the perpetrator's claim of self-defense.

Nelson Mandela: ‘A True Hero of Conscience’ (PDF)
In celebration and memory of the life of Nelson Mandela, this special edition of lesson provides students the opportunity to learn more about Nelson Mandela and his extraordinary life.

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