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For Grades 9-12 , week of Feb. 26, 2024

1. FIRST FEDERAL TRIAL

A South Carolina man was found guilty in the first federal trial over a hate crime based on gender identity for his killing of a Black transgender woman. The victim, Dime Doe, began socially transitioning to live as a woman after graduating high school. She was in a secret relationship with a man in their small town and when people began to find out, prosectors say the man killed her. Federal officials have prosecuted hate crimes based on gender identity previously, but they’ve resulted in plea deals—this was the first such case that went to trial. Read about the different types of hate crimes as laid out by the Justice Department and the recent history of hate crimes in the US. Then, write an article that puts this recent case in context.

2. SANCTIONS INCREASED

Following the death of Aleksei Navalny, an anticorruption activist and opposition leader against Russian President Vladimir Putin, the United States announced extensive sanctions against Russia. They include more than 500 individuals, including officials the Biden administration believes were involved in Navalny’s death. Meanwhile, Congress has yet to reach an agreement on sending more aid to Ukraine as Russia’s war effort in the country reaches its third year. Research the current sanctions imposed on Russia and how the country has attempted to evade the sanctions. Then, write an article that summarizes where they’re at to date and how they’ve affected Russia’s war effort.

3. IVF IN QUESTION

In the most recent court battle surrounding the issue of abortion care and access in the United States following the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the Alabama Supreme Court made a controversial landmark decision that frozen embryos should legally be considered children. Lawmakers in the state are now scrambling to put forth legislation that would protect in vitro fertilization (IVF), which is critical to people who struggle with infertility and LGBTQ+ couples looking to conceive children. The new ruling, which had an 8-1 majority in the state’s supreme court, was in a case where couples sued a fertility clinic over the accidental destruction of embryos, but it could impact people seeking IVF treatment and fertility clinics doing business in the state. The ruling also sparked criticism for its apparent lack of separation between church and state, with the chief justice citing Bible verses and Christian theologians in his concurring opinion. Read the opinion from the Alabama Supreme Court and some of the reactions from other Republican lawmakers. Then, write an article that summarizes the issue of separation between church and state in this case and the impacts the ruling might have.

4. WEST BANK REVERSAL

The US government reversed its former position on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying they’re inconsistent with international law. (This was the country’s position for decades before the Trump administration reversed the stance with an updated policy.) The settlements in question are along the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel. The announcement comes after an officer in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration announced that an existing planning committee that oversees construction in the West Bank would be convened to more forward with 3,000 more housing units in the area. Read more about the history of the West Bank and Israel and Palestine’s claims to that land from at least two different sources. Then, write an article summarizing the current situation and its historical context.

5. HAIR ON TRIAL

A student in Texas was ousted from his Houston-area high school last August for his hair, which the school district said violates their dress code. The state has a new law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination, but a Texas judge has ruled in favor of the school district. The student wears locs twisted on top of his head but was told his hair violates the school’s policy on hair length because of how long it would be when let down. The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act doesn’t specify hair length in its outline of natural hair texture and protective hairstyles that are protected under the law. Research the history of discrimination against culturally significant Black hairstyles in the US and the CROWN Act that aims to address it. Then, write an opinion article about the CROWN Act in the context of this case and whether it’s providing the protections it aimed to.

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