For Grades 9-12 THE WEEK OF Nov. 29, 2021

1. School Shooting Damages

It won’t bring back any of the people who were killed, but the U.S. Justice Department has agreed to pay nearly $130-million to survivors and families of victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead and another 17 injured in February 2018. The payments are part of a settlement in which the department acknowledged that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had failed to investigate tips that shooter Nikolas Cruz was amassing weapons and planning an attack on a school. Cruz was a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the shooting took place on Valentine’s Day in 2018. Six weeks before the shooting, Cruz was posting on Instagram about collecting weapons and ammunition, and 3 ½ months before that he posted a message on his YouTube channel stating “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The settlement in the Parkland school shooting came about after a group of parents accused the Justice Department of “negligence” in a lawsuit and sought “damages” for the department’s failure to act on the tips about Cruz. Lawsuits are often filed outside the criminal justice system to get accountability, justice or cash damages for the actions of government officials or others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one such lawsuit. Use what you read to write an editorial analyzing the merits of the suit and whether damages should be awarded.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

2. Crackdown on Women

When the extremist Taliban group returned to power last summer in the Asian nation of Afghanistan, leaders quickly moved to establish greater controls on women. Women and girls were instructed to stay home from work and school, political activity was restricted and women were urged to return to wearing “Islamic dress” — black, full body burkas that cover women from head to toe. Now Taliban leaders have banned women from appearing in television dramas under new media restrictions rolled out by the government. All dramas, soap operas and entertainment shows featuring women are prohibited, according to the government guidelines issued by the country's Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. In addition, women presenting the news on TV must now wear headscarves on screen. The Taliban is remaking life in Afghanistan the model of harsh Muslim sharia law. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about changes are being made and groups they affect. Use what you read to write what the United States or other nations could do to protect the rights of women and others in Afghanistan.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Boosters for All

Since coronavirus vaccines arrived in the United States, there has been great confusion over who should get them and when. The situation got even more complicated when booster shots were developed for people who had gotten their first vaccines. Now government health officials have given the clearest guidance yet over who should get boosters. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration both announced that all adults older than 18 are now eligible for boosters if they have had their first doses of a vaccine and those older than 50 SHOULD get a booster. “I think this is pretty simple now,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA center that regulates vaccines, in an interview with the Washington Post newspaper. “If you are over 18, and you have been vaccinated … it is time to go get a booster. Doesn’t matter which one you get, go get a booster.” With holiday gatherings coming, health officials fear the United States will see another jump in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Yet many people still resist getting vaccinated. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how health officials feel unvaccinated people will affect the number of cases during the holidays — and what areas will be most affected. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a documentary film examining the status of vaccinations in the United States and the impact that could have on the holiday season. Write an outline for your film including images you would use.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

4. Adele’s Inspiration

A lot of people have helped superstar Adele succeed in the music world. But during a TV special in her native England, Adele was moved to tears when she learned that a favorite teacher was in the audience. Asked by actress Emma Thompson who in her past had supported her, Adele chose her high school English teacher Ms. McDonald, who taught her at Chestnut Grove Academy in the city of London. “She got me really into English literature. Like, I've always been obsessed with English and obviously now I write lyrics,” Adele said. “She was so bloody cool. So engaging. She really made us care, and we knew that she cared about us.” Told McDonald was in the audience, Adele broke down in tears when they reunited on stage after 20 years. “I'm so proud of you,” McDonald said as Adele cried tears of joy. Adele responded, “You really did change my life.” In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about people whose lives have been changed by the actions of others. Pick one and write a personal column telling how the person’s life was changed, who changed it and how their story could inspire others. If you have had your life changed by another, include that in your column or compare your experience to that of the person in the news.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support.

5. That’s Some Bling!

The Tiffany company is world famous for creating fabulous and expensive pieces of jewelry. Just in time for the holidays, Tiffany has unveiled what it says is its most expensive piece ever — and you could buy it. All you would need is $20-million to $30-million, say those in the know. “The World’s Fair Necklace,” which is modeled after a Tiffany design shown at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City, features an amazing 180 carats of diamonds set in platinum around a flawless, oval, 80-carat “Empire Diamond,” CNN News reported. The centerpiece diamond, which was mined in the African nation of Botswana, is classified as D-color, which is almost colorless and the highest grade. Tiffany’s most famous piece of jewelry is the huge “Tiffany Diamond,” which weighs 128.54 carats and is featured in a necklace that has been worn on loan by celebrities like Lady Gaga and Beyonce on special occasions. Unlike the “Empire Diamond” necklace, the “Tiffany Diamond” is considered priceless and not for sale. Expensive pieces of jewelry are a great way to examine the value of huge sums of money. With “The World’s Fair Necklace” as a starting point, use the newspaper, Internet and other resources to research what you could buy with $30-million if you used it for other things in the community. How many firefighters could you hire, for example, or how many teachers? How many homes could you build for low-income people? How many cars could you buy for people who need them? Use your research to compile a list of “What I Could Buy with $30-million.” Share with family, friends and classmates and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.