Talking with Students about Civic Engagement and Tragic Events in the News
Upsetting things happen in the world, in our country and in our local communities. When these events occur students are likely to have many questions, fears, thoughts and emotions. It is important to take the time during the school day to discuss the events and students’ concerns about the events. Teachers can help students understand the complex issues connected to the recent tragedy in Florida and engage in open dialogue while promoting civic engagement and student agency. To support student discussion:
- Try to keep routines as normal as possible; the predictability of school routines can be comforting.
- Be honest with students and share with them as much information as they are able/willing to handle.
- Listen to students’ fears and concerns, let them ask questions, acknowledge their feelings.
- Reassure students that they are in a safe place.
- Help students feel a sense of agency and find positive ways to take action.
Some of the resources below provide guidance on how you can work with your students to help them deal with their emotions and feelings in the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy. Other resources are provided to help guide respectful classroom discussions around related topics such as gun control and student activism. As you engage students in these discussions, it is important to promote a reflective, tolerant and respectful classroom community and to present all relevant points of view.
Recommended Resources for Middle/High School Students
Understanding the Second Amendment
Educators can help students analyze what the text means and how it has been interpreted over the years.
- Library of Congress
Article: United States: Gun Ownership and the Supreme Court provides an overview and extensive bibliography with books and articles on the significance of this constitutional debate.
Resources for Talking & Teaching About Parkland, Florida
Educators can support students' need to discuss the incident in Florida and its aftermath by helping students voice their views within a positive and protective climate.
Student Activism & Student Rights
Educators can help students understand how our government works and how taking an active role in government is an essential part of civic responsibility.
- Center for Civic Education
Lesson Plan: Citizens, Not Spectators engage students in hands-on learning about the voting process. Students learn why they should vote, how to register to vote, and how to cast an informed vote.
Understanding Gun Control
Educators should help students understand divisive or controversial issues by providing appropriate and relevant context.
- The Supreme Court and Gun Control
Cases: District of Columbia v. Heller, 2008; McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010); Caetano v. Massachusetts (2016)
Resource: Pro/Con Arguments on Gun Control presents short arguments representing different perspectives on the gun debate.
Recommended Resources for Elementary Grades