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Educators Say Students Need To Talk About Ferguson


The news out of Ferguson, Missouri has been getting attention across the country for weeks now. Town meetings have been called. Ministers, priests, rabbis and moms have been addressing it. The Ferguson story occurs just as many students are headed back to school. And we heard from dozens of teachers on Facebook about how they plan to try to talk about it in their classrooms. Joe Sangillo is an administrator for the Montgomery County, Maryland public schools.

JOE SANGILLO: For many of our students, the facts don't exactly matter right now as much as the feeling of I have been discriminated against. My people have been discriminated against. People don't understand me. My teacher doesn't understand me. Cops don't like me. You know, acknowledging that and creating that safe learning environment is vital.

SIMON: Paige Pennigar is a high school teacher in the Mississippi Delta. She is white. All of her students are black, and she says acknowledging that has helped.

PAIGE PENNIGAR: If I didn't recognize my own white identity and how I play a role in this, things would probably fall apart in my classroom on a daily basis.

SIMON: Cassandra Aldridge teaches middle schoolers in Philadelphia. She hasn't prepared any lesson plan around Ferguson. She says she mostly plans to listen.

CASSANDRA ALDRIDGE: Sometimes, teachable moments come up not because I've designed a lesson, per se, but because students bring questions, curiosities, their own exposure depending on what happens in their homes. And sometimes, all I have to really be is present in the room and give kids the opportunity to speak to events themselves.

SIMON: That was Cassandra Aldridge. She's one of the teachers with whom we spoke about how they'll approach Ferguson in their classrooms. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.