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Nation’s classrooms reflect on Ferguson; students tackling sensitive topics

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POSTED December 2, 2014 11:54 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When his high school English students came to class, Tom Rademacher knew there would be one thing on their mind: a grand jury’s decision not to indict the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

So the Minneapolis teacher put aside his lesson plans for the day and asked them a simple question: How did they feel?

Some teens said they were sad, others angry. One said he logged off Twitter and Facebook to avoid dealing with upset friends.

“That’s the definition of white privilege,” student Nia Golston replied. “You get to look away while I, being African-American, have to live like this.”

In the aftermath of the Ferguson announcement, classrooms across the nation are taking up uncomfortable topics — race, police use of force and poverty, among others — to give students a voice and help them make sense of events.

Some teachers are using the discussion to weave in history lessons. One school in the Bronx read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Others are reviewing primary source documents, like officer Darren Wilson’s grand jury testimony, to study the case in detail. Some are just inquiring about the emotions evoked by the killing of a person not much older than most high school students.

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