Police brutality, as unfortunate as it is, does occur in today’s society more often than it should and is frequently accompanied by racist stereotypes or plain racism. This type of violence is overlooked by many and is therefore a very important concept to teach to students because it does exist. Learning about how to properly interact with police officers, the history of police violence and shootings, and how racism is commonly a factor in this brutality is important for any and all students.
There are many resources on the internet available for teachers to use about police brutality. In addition to using these resources, asking students to read literature or watch a film about police brutality could be beneficial.
- #FergusonSyllabus: Talking and Teaching About Police Violence: This lesson plan, from Prison Culture, aims to teach young people about police violence, as it has become a huge issue in recent times. The lesson begins by introducing a few general questions meant to get students thinking about who benefits and suffers from policing before jumping into an extensive list of activities grouped into the categories: Introductory Activities, Historical Timelines of Policing, and Art. Each one of these activities are interactive and unique, encouraging students to collaborate with each other while learning about policing and violence.
- YOUTH and POLICE: Police and the Use of Force: The Constitutional Rights Foundation put together a lesson, which consists of an overview, teacher tips, objectives, materials and preparation, and procedure, about police and the use of force. In this plan, students will learn about the truth of police work, complete a worksheet about when police officers may have to use force in the field, and work in pairs to analyze a case and decide what level of force should be used. By working through this lesson, students will be able to understand a bit more about the difficult choices police officers have to make regarding force in certain situations.
- Police shootings, race and respect: PBS NEWSHOUR EXTRA supplies a lesson plan for grades 7-12 about police shootings, race, and respect. This lesson calls for students to read a provided summary about police shootings against African Americans, watch the video or read the transcript of Tetrina Blalock on police brutality and demanding respect, read the article “New study gives broader look into how police killings affect black Americans’ mental health”, and answering a handful of discussion questions.
- NPPR – Stories about Police Brutality: NPR provides a multitude of articles about police brutality on this webpage. Articles about police using excessive violence, innocent victims being targeted by police due to their race, and riots taking place in response to brutality from law enforcement are all included. Reading these current events will be extremely eye-opening to many students, especially those who are more privileged, and hopefully inspire them to learn more about police brutality and make change.
- Black Lives Matter: 25+ Resources for Your Conversations on Police Violence: This article, from everyday feminism, provides two categories—Unpacking Police Brutality and White Allyship in Response to Police Brutality—of resources to use in the classroom for teaching their students about police violence, its connection to racism, and what we can do to help. The conversation on police violence and racism can be a tough one to have in the classroom, but it is an important one, and these linked articles will help you get started!
- Police brutality in the United States: Encyclopedia Britannica offers information for students about police brutality in the United States, specifically African Americans and police brutality, police brutality after World War II, police brutality and race riots, and anti brutality campaigns. This informational article will help students understand how great of an issue police violence is and the history behind this type of brutality.
- Mapping Police Violence: This informational site gives readers access to a police violence map, accounts of unarmed victims in 2014 and 2015, a 2015 police violence report, a comparison of police killings in various cities and states, national trends, and more. Learning about the statistics of police killings, the factors that contribute to a person’s likelihood to be killed by a law enforcement officer, and proven solutions to decreasing this type of violence will help students be able to empathize with victims of police brutality and understand the gravity of this issue.
- These Are Cases in Which Police Officers Were Charged in Shootings: Fortune has compiled a list of police officers charged after harming or killing a civilian. Though the majority of officers haven’t been prosecuted for their crimes until recently, a few examples of cases may be helpful for students to read during the learning process. Reading about real people and their real crimes is more impactful than hypothetical cases or statistics!
Teaching students about police brutality isn’t an easy job, but it is an important one. It’s crucial to be aware of your audience when discussing the topic because every child and their family has had a different experience with the law and police violence that you may not be aware of. I would recommend disclosing the information you will be discussing to students and their families before you begin the lesson to give them the opportunity to voice any concerns.
- Teaching about Race, Racism and Police Violence: Teaching Tolerance provides various articles and resources for teaching about race, racism and police violence. The events leading up to Michael Brown’s shooting and the account of the Los Angeles Race Riots by a protester are just a couple of the topics discussed on this site to start the conversation of police violence in the classroom. These resources, most of which are based on some form of current or past events, are perfect for introducing the concept!
- Resources for Discussing Police Violence, Race, and Racism With Students: This article provides resources for discussing police violence, race, and racism with students. Resources from TEDx, the Today Show, Teaching Tolerance, Teaching Now, Harvard Graduate School, and Character.org are all recommended and linked for use!