Lesson Plan

Exploring Solutions to Address Racial Disparity Concerns

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GRADE LEVEL: High School

COMMON CORE STANDARDS: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening

SEL STANDARDS*: Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, Responsible Decision-Making

Racial Profiling and Police Use of Force

In 2014, the police-involved deaths of Michael Brown (Ferguson, MO), Eric Garner (Staten Island, NY) and Tamir Rice (Cleveland, OH) brought questions, anger, protests and an important public conversation about the police use of force and violence against Black people. According to the Associated Press’ annual poll of editors and news directors, the high-profile death of Black people at the hands of the police and the investigations and protest they inspired, were the top news stories of 2014.

In “Race and Reasonableness in Police Killings” published in the Boston University Law Review, authors reported that “Black suspects are more than twice as likely to be killed by police than are persons of other racial or ethnic groups; even when there are no other obvious circumstances during the encounter that would make the use of deadly force reasonable.”

Demands for Reform in the Criminal Justice System

Following the deaths of Eric Garner in July, Michael Brown in August and the grand juries’ decisions not to indict the involved police officers in both cases, there were ongoing protests across the country and world, igniting the Black Lives Matter movement. Along with the protests came demands for reform in law enforcement, in the Grand Jury process and of the criminal justice system overall and demands to address the systemic racism embedded in many aspects of our society. In addition, some local and federal actions were proposed and some enacted, including the use of body cameras for police, special prosecutors in cases that involve police officers and increased training for police officers and more. Since 2014, there have been many police killings of Black people including Laquan McDonald, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Deborah Danner, Antwon Rose, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and more.

About the Lesson Plan

This lesson will help students reflect on some of the underlying problems and issues that emerged from these cases, undertake research and present viable solutions. Students will learn about some of strategies and reforms that have been circulating and work in small groups to investigate and present one of these ideas in more depth.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will reflect on the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and explore the reasons why there was a strong call for law enforcement reform.
  • Students will identify possible strategies and solutions to address the underlying causes of police use of excessive force and violence.
  • Students will work in small groups to research one of the reform strategies and develop a class presentation to share what they learned.