Teaching about the Trayvon Martin Case


Photo (L): Students and staff at Ronald Emonds Learning Center MS 113 in Brooklyn, NY pay tribute to Trayvon Martin, dressed in hoodies. Photo (R): Flint Northwestern Academy student Luke Jones discusses his feelings about the Trayvon Martin story with classmates in Flint, MI. Credit: Ryan Garza, MLive.com

You would never think a walk to the store would get you killed, right? Well, that was what happened to 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. As he was coming back home from the store carting an iced teaand Skittles, a neighborhood watch volunteer named George Zimmerman felt “intimidated” by the young man and shot him, killing him.

This brings up a lot of questions: When does an innocent high school student become “intimidating,” “threatening” or “suspicious”? How intimidating can someone be with a few munchies in their hand, just walking down the street? If you’re a black kid with a hoodie, is it immediately assumed that you’re “bad” or a “troublemaker”? Would things have been different if Martin was a white kid strolling down the street or if he had been dressed differently? from guest post by Anthony Turner, a 19-year-old senior at Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School, on The New York Times Learning Blog


Resources for Teachers Teaching about Trayvon Martinz (NYC teacher and writer, Stepen Lazar)

On Trayvon Martin: A Guest Post From a Teenager, and Some Teaching Suggestions (The Learning Network, Teaching & Learning With The New York Times)

Will We Learn from Trayvon Martin’s Death? (Tolerance.org)

Teaching about the Trayvon Martin Case (African-American History)

Teacing about Trayvon Martin with Young Children (Teaching for Change)

After Trayvon Martin's Death, We're All Having 'The Talk' (NPR)

Wiki by NYCoRE (to add resources or share lessons around Trayvon Martin)

Google thread (for teachers wanting to create discussions with students about Trayvon Martin)

As the Trayvon Martin story unfolds with daily headlines and protests, teachers and students have brought their emotions and opinions into the classroom and onto the sidewalk. It would be hard to imagine (sadly) a more teachable moment about the complex emotions—and sometimes violent outcomes—that continue to haunt black men, of all ages, on America's streets. The case of Trayvon Martin is a stark reminder that, as a society, we are far from "post racial."

The fact that Trayvon Martin's hoodie made him "suspicious" and "intimidating" to his assailantt has become, not suprisingly, a rallying point for young demonstrtators—for whom the hoodie transcends race, neighborhood, and class. Middle and high school students across the counry—even on a U.S. army base in Germany—have showed their solidarity with the young Florida seventeen-year old by wearing hoodies to school (after winning waivers from school dress codes that ban them) or taking the hoodie as a starting point for discussions that run much more than skin deep.

Here we offer a few headlines about students taking Tayvon's tragic story to heart—and links to resources for teaching about the Trayvon Martin case.

Carol City ethics students examine Trayvon Martin case CAROL CITY, FL — Attorney-turned-teacher Clinton Mitchell uses the death of Trayvon Martin as a case study in his ethics class at Miami Carol City Senior High, where the slain teen once went to school. April 2, 2012 In a Miami Gardens high school ethics class, today’s lesson is Trayvon Martin. Students don’t mention his name until nearly an hour into the 90-minute class. The teens, all black, already know his story. He attended Miami Carol City Senior High just last year. He died at 17, the same age as many of them. And they love to wear hoodies, just like Trayvon did the night he was shot. So when their teacher, Clinton Mitchell, shows a photo of Trayvon in a hoodie and asks “Suspicious or not?,” the debate exposes raw emotion. “For me personally, it’s not ethical to judge somebody on just what they wear,” said Daniel Tippenhauer, 17. “It’s crazy how he was judged just on his skin tone and a hoodie. It shouldn’t be that way.” More than a month has passed since Trayvon was killed in Sanford by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. Attorney-turned-teacher Clinton Mitchell has tried to harness the hot topic into a teaching moment.

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Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida evokes strong feelings from Flint teens FLINT, MI — The editorial cartoon glowing on the overhead projector showed a black teenager with his arms held up. His pockets pulled out of his shorts, his hands in the air holding only a bag of Skittles. "Just in case we pass a town watch," said the boy in the cartoon, a commentary on the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. The 17-year-old Martin was shot to death last month in Sanford, Fla., by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. Zimmerman reportedly shot the unarmed teen, who was black and wearing a hooded sweatshirt, or hoodie. Zimmerman had followed him and told a 911 operator he looked suspicious. Citing Florida's Stand Your Ground gun law, authorities have not charged Zimmerman with a crime. Friday, 1,200 miles away from Sanford, a classroom of black Flint high school students studied the cartoon during fifth period. "That's like me walking in Davison," said 18-year-old Luke Jones, referring to a nearby suburb which, according to the U.S. Census, is mostly white. "Walking in Davison, how's that make you feel?" asked teacher Kristin Calhoun. "It makes you feel uncomfortable," said 16-year-old Sparkle Taylor, her black hoodie pulled onto her head.

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Pittsburgh students honor Trayvon Martin, walk out of class on 'Hoodie Day' PITTSBURGH, PA — Students at some Pittsburgh area schools walked out of class during “Hoodie Day” on Friday, showing support for Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt when he was shot while walking in Sanford, Fla. Normally hooded sweatshirts are a violation of school dress code, but officials made an exception for the rally. The plan was met by mixed reactions from parents. “It’s a good thing because it shows support, and it should teach them to be cautious,” Courtney Clark said. The schools that participated in the rally are Pittsburgh Brashear High School, Pittsburgh CAPA, Carrick High School, Pittsburgh Colfax elementary, Pittsburgh King elementary, Pittsburgh Millones and Pittsburgh Stevens elementary. After leaving their classrooms, several students gathered for a rally at a church in Pittsburgh's Elliot neighborhood. "We're wearing these hoodies today because we want people to know that Trayvon matters,” said Stephanie Gottschalk, a pastor at Emanuel United Methodist Church. “We want people to know that Elliot matters and Pittsburgh matters, and that each and every person's life matters."

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Ramstein students put on their hoodies for Trayvon Martin RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, GERMANY — In a show of solidarity for slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, more than 230 students at Ramstein High School wore hooded sweatshirts or jackets to class Tuesday as part of a peaceful demonstration they called “Hoodies Up.” The intent was to show that wearing a hoodie should not make a person appear threatening, said 17-year-old senior Caleb Guerrido, one of five students who came up with the idea of wearing hoodies to school. Martin, 17, was shot Feb. 26 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman as he walked back to the townhouse of his father’s girlfriend in the gated community of Sanford. Zimmerman, 28, told police that Martin, who was unarmed, was wearing a dark hoodie and looked “suspicious.” He claimed that when he questioned Martin, the teen jumped him and that he shot him in self defense. The incident has sparked a national controversy. Many are angry Zimmerman hasn’t been arrested. Martin’s killing also sent ripples outside the U.S., where it triggered discussion in the seminar class of RHS math teacher Phillis Westmoreland-Allen. Students debated what happened to Martin and why over three classroom periods, she said.

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