Teaching About George Floyd’s Murder Trial

Introduction

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46 year-old African American man living in Minnesota, was killed while being arrested by the police. Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pinned Floyd to the ground while he was being handcuffed and pressed his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes. Despite Floyd repeatedly saying that he could not breathe, Chauvin continued kneeling on Floyd’s neck, even after he lost consciousness. The entire encounter was filmed by a bystander on her cell phone and revealed to the world. After his trial, Derek Chauvin was charged with second-degree and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, and the other three officers involved will be tried later in the summer of 2021. Too many African Americans are unlawfully killed by police in the United States but are rarely prosecuted. However, George Floyd’s murder trial is important because justice was finally served for another black man that should have lived. 

Resources

There are many resources available online for educators who want to teach their students about George Floyd’s murder trial. U4SC also has topic resources for Teaching About Police Brutality, Teaching About Race, and Teaching About Black Lives Matter for educators who are interested!

Lesson Plans

  1. Lesson of the Day – ‘How Teachers Are Exploring the Derek Chauvin Trial With Students’: The New York Times has put together a lesson in which students will learn how schools across the country are addressing the trial of the former police officer, Derek Chauvin, charged with the murder of George Floyd. The lesson includes a brief overview, a warm up, the featured article “How Teachers Are Exploring the Derek Chauvin Trial With Students,” questions for writing and discussion, and a going further activity. 
  2. Teachers Discuss George Floyd Murder and Chauvin Verdict: The New York Times provides an education briefing in which several educators from schools across the nation discuss how they are teaching their students about the Chauvin verdict, specifically what resources they are using. Educators may be inspired to follow their lead by having a simple debrief of basic questions or using the poems/short stories/letters mentioned.
  3. Lesson Plan – How Derek Chauvin Trial Highlights Trauma of Police Brutality: PBS NewsHour provides a lesson plan focused on how the Derek Chauvin Trial highlights the trauma of police brutality. Students will watch two videos, one of which highlights the goals of the prosecution and the defense in the trial of Derek Chauvin and another on witness testimony. Then, students will answer questions, engage in class discussions, and examine how the Chauvin case compares to another high profile case involving police brutality of Rodney King in L.A. in 1991.
  4. Resources for Talking to Students about Police Violence and the Murder of George Floyd: On Medium, the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has outlined a series of resources for talking to students about police violence and the murder of George Floyd. There are resources for families and caregivers, for dialogue, and for educators alike to help all parties understand how to talk about the verdict, racism, and police violence with students and children.
  5. Accountability, Justice, and Healing After Derek Chauvin’s Trial: Facing History and Ourselves has put together a teaching idea designed to help guide an initial class discussion on the verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial. The activities have students to explore the concepts of justice, accountability, and healing, while supporting them as they process their feelings on the Derek Chauvin verdict and the legacy of racial injustice in policing.
  6. Responding to the Chauvin Verdict: Learning for Justice provides a few resources for educators who want to hold space for critical conversations about the Chauvin verdict and the general concepts of racial injustice and police brutality. Included are “Toolkit for Talking About Racism and Police Violence with Students,” “Let’s Talk!,” and “Don’t Say Nothing.”
  7. What Is Your Reaction to the Verdict in the Derek Chauvin Trial?: The New York Times recently published “Derek Chauvin Verdict Brings a Rare Rebuke of Police Misconduct” and asks students to read the entire article and write a response that includes their reaction and answers a series of questions. For educators who want students to share their own opinions on the Chauvin verdict, this resource will be essential!

Articles

How to Discuss the Derek Chauvin Trial with Students

  1. Discussing the Derek Chauvin Trial in Class: How Teachers Are Doing It, and Why: EducationWeek has published an article discussing how and why teachers are talking about the Derek Chauvin trial in the classroom. The article provides a couple examples of real teachers who explain how they are navigating the process of teaching students about systemic racism, white supremacy, police brutality, and the outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial. Black educators also discuss the outrage some have faced from parents and colleagues after bringing the topic of racism into the classroom in one form or another. 
  2. The Verdict is In – How to Talk with Young People about the Derek Chauvin Murder Trial Verdict: The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) offers some advice on how to talk with young people about the Derek Chauvin murder trial verdict and the issue of police violence in general. It is recommended that educators prepare themselves emotionally and with information, create a safe and supportive environment, provide time and space for students to express their feelings, answer questions, share facts, and encourage additional questions and investigation, help young people consider actions they can take, and more. In addition, ADL has a variety of free lesson plans, family discussion guides, children’s literature, and other tools for teaching about racism, violence, inequity, and the criminal justice system.
  3. Why We Need to Talk About Chauvin’s Drug-Related Defense: Psychology Today provides a brief article discussing why we need to talk about Chauvin’s drug-related defense, as George Floyd’s substance use is both relevant and irrelevant. Derek Chauvin’s legal defense team is claiming that George Floyd’s substance use is to blame for his death, and the piece explains how George Floyd’s substance use is irrelevant to Chauvin’s defense but relevant to the psychosocial context that enables such claims.
  4. How to Talk to Your Children About the Derek Chauvin Trial in George Floyd’s Death: ABC News offers advice on how to talk to children about the Derek Chauvin trial in George Floyd’s death. Though the article was written with parents in mind, educators can apply the recommendations just the same.

The Derek Chauvin Trial Itself

  1. Derek Chauvin Found Guilty Of George Floyd’s Murder: npr provides an article discussing how Derek Chauvin was found guilty of George Floyd’s murder. The article describes the details of the trial, the charges, the jury, and the significance beyond the courtroom. In addition, npr also provides live updates on the trial over George Floyd’s killing here.
  2. 13 Key Moments from the Derek Chauvin Trial: The New York Times has put together 13 key moments that shaped the trial of Derek Chauvin. The article discusses several of the witness testimonies, explaining their contents and significance while also providing brief clips of these testimonies for viewing. Educators who want their students to see parts of the witness testimonies for themselves and understand how these testimonies played a key role in the verdict should take a look at this article!
  3. The Trial Over George Floyd’s Death: The New York Times has put together a collection of articles on the trial over George Floyd’s death. The topics of some of these articles include the Derek Chauvin verdict bringing a rare rebuke of police misconduct, how the trial over Floyd’s death flipped the script for black victims, a juror on the Chauvin trial speaking out, and more.
  4. What Derek Chauvin’s Conviction Means for Other Former Officers Charged in George Floyd’s Killing: NBC News has published an article explaining what Derek Chauvin’s conviction means for other former officers charged in George Floyd’s killing. The article discusses how the Derek Chauvin verdict is bad news for the three other officers awaiting trial this summer, but the prosecution’s work is certainly not over yet.
  5. How George Floyd’s Murder Unfolded According to Evidence from Derek Chauvin’s Trial: ABC News offers information about how George Floyd’s murder unfolded according to evidence from Derek Chauvin’s trial. The article utilizes video evidence, witness testimony from bystanders and experts, the 911 call, and more to create this timeline.


Informational Sites

  1. The New York Times has published two articles that provide information about how George Floyd died in police custody.
    1. How George Floyd Died, and What Happened Next
    2. How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody


Conclusion

Teaching about George Floyd’s murder trial may seem tough, but as students and educators alike continue to grapple with the death of George Floyd and react to the Derek Chauvin verdict, it is necessary to have this conversation. First and foremost, educators should be sure to create a safe space for students to share their feelings about the outcome of the trial and what changes, if any, they think will occur in our nation in the future as a result. Then, using the lessons plans, articles, and informational sites above will help educators to effectively teach their students about George Floyd’s murder trial!

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