DISTRICT | August 18, 2017
Teaching through Tragedy: CPS’ Response to Charlottesville

The recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia has left many in our communities – and our homes – shaken. It shows us that racism, hate and intolerance remain serious issues in our country, and reminds us of our responsibility to educate children about the toxic nature of these attitudes.

For many of us, these events are also deeply personal. Earlier this week, as my young daughter tried to process what she was seeing on the news, she kept repeating a phrase that has stuck with me: “I thought that this was over.” As parents, it’s hard to have these conversations and reassure all our children that they are valued and have an important role to play in making our world a better place.

On September 5, teachers will welcome back students who will undoubtedly have questions about the rhetoric they have heard, the disturbing images they have seen and the actions that are taking place. Never has the influence of these educators been more critical, as we are relying on them to highlight our values, like diversity and teaching students to respect and celebrate differences.

Teachers and school leaders can help students better understand these events, providing context that will help them explore the root causes of intolerance while deconstructing the ahistorical claims aimed at legitimizing hate. They can also inspire future generations with stories of everyday people who, through their own work or working together, are overcoming intolerance. Finally, our educators can remind every CPS student how deeply they are valued, no matter what their ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or country of origin.

Wading into these emotional, highly charged issues takes careful planning on the part of our teachers. That’s why I am reintroducing the materials CPS provided last year to help guide these important conversations. A few new articles and videos from reputable sources have also been added.

The only positive to be gleaned from a tragedy like Charlottesville is the opportunity it gives us to move future generations away from hate, and toward a more peaceful and inclusive world. I encourage all teachers, along with parents and other adult role models in our students’ lives, to use the below links as a springboard to creating meaningful dialogue that moves us closer to that reality.


Dr. Janice K. Jackson
Chief Education Officer

8 Discussion Tools and Strategies to Start the Conversation

  1. CPS Post-Election FAQ [PDF]
  2. Resources For Promoting Dialogue Post-Election 2016 from Newseum.
  3. CPS Department of Social & Emotional Learning’s Restorative Practices Toolkit
  4. Processing Circle Directions
  5. Circle activity modified for Middle School:  
  6. This Tool from Teaching Tolerance includes three strategies to use in discussion of difficult topics. There also a list of resources for teachers and students.
  7. An incredible planning tool from Teaching Tolerance, Perspectives for a Diverse America. A site for planning with a goal of limiting implicit bias, starting with the essential question and offers a variety of diverse, inclusive texts.

11 Resources Start the Conversation about Charlottesville

  1. W.E.B. DuBois on Robert E. Lee Civil War Memory 
  2. The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy  – Facing History and Ourselves
  3. How to talk to your kids about the violence in Charlottesville – LA Times
  4. There is No Apolitical Classroom – National Center for Teachers of English
  5. A Reformed White Nationalist Speaks Out On Charlottesville – National Public Radio
  6. We’re here to support your #CharlottesvilleCurriculum – Newsela
  7. [Video] – IL Senate Vote -to Label White Supremacists as Terrorists – Now This
  8. 4 Things Citizens Can Do  – Public Radio International
  9. Hate Map: 917 Hate Groups are Currently Operating in the U.S. – Southern Poverty Law Center 
  10. Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide – Southern Poverty Law Center
  11. The first thing teachers should do when school starts is talk about hatred in America. Here’s help. – Washington Post