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For Grades 5-8 , week of Oct. 02, 2023

1. MENTAL HEALTH BATTLE

Former applicants are suing the Peace Corps for discriminating against them for having mental health issues. Many had their applications accepted only to have them revoked after the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services reviewed their medical information and found evidence of a history with mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety. The lawsuit alleges that the Peace Corps did not consider making reasonable accommodations or individualized assessments of each applicant, which amounts to discrimination. The Peace Corps responded that the organization has to provide for the health and safety of its volunteers and while some health conditions may be easily handled in the US, they may not be overseas. Do you think it’s reasonable for the Peace Corps to deny someone’s application to volunteer overseas based on a history of mental health issues? Write an opinion piece defending your position on the matter.

2. STUDENT UNION

As unions continue to make news across the country—with auto workers and Hollywood actors still on strike amid contract negotiations—they’re becoming more popular among undergraduate students. Resident advisors (RAs) at the University of Pennsylvania voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionizing last week, becoming part of the Office and Professional Employees International Union. They’re seeking more benefits, including stipends, scheduling policies, and other protections that representation by a union could help them achieve. They will now go into contract negotiation between the union and university, which could take months. Write an article that summarizes the UPenn RAs’ decision to unionize and what happens next. What are the benefits or risks to other students on campus?

3. ALLIGATOR ALERT

A baseball fan was turned away from a Philadelphia Phillies game because of his emotional support alligator, WallyGator. The social media-famous reptile did not fall under the stadium’s policy, which states “guide dogs, service animals, or service animals in training are welcome. All other animals are prohibited.” The owner has said that his alligator helps his battle with depression. Emotional support animals (ESAs) have made headlines for years, with people bringing exotic animals on public transportation and into other public places. Research the criteria for being an emotional support animal as compared to a service animal. Then, write an article summarizing the facts of this story and what separates ESAs from service animals.

4. LIFE AFTER LOVE

According to allegations made by Hollywood icon Cher’s daughter-in-law, Marieangela King, the singer had her son kidnapped last year on the night of his and King’s wedding anniversary. In court documents that are part of divorce proceedings between King and Elijah Blue Allman, Cher’s younger son, King alleges that the couple were together for two weeks in November 2022 trying to work on their marriage after Allman filed for divorce on year prior. King says that on the night of their anniversary, four men came into the room and took Allman away; one of the men, she said, told her that they were hired by Cher. After the alleged abduction, Allman was taken to a treatment facility—he had collapsed at a Hollywood hotel last year and Cher was reportedly worried about his health. This article is written based on King’s comments in court, but Cher and Allman could not be reached for comment. Write a paragraph about the challenges sharing one side of the story and ways you can still report fairly when you don’t have the other side’s perspective.

5. DAY IN COURT

With laws in several states popping up that seek to regulate social media platforms like Facebook, X, and TikTok, the Supreme Court will decide if they violate the Constitution. The First Amendment states that the government shall make no law that abridges the freedom of speech of the American public—while there are some narrow categories of speech that aren’t protected, it’s one of the fundamental principles of America. However, there has been little precedent set for how those laws are applied in the digital age; similar issues like whether politicians can block opponents from commenting on their posts are also being decided. How do you think the First Amendment applies to social media? Do people have the right to say anything they want? Do companies have a right or responsibility to remove content that’s offensive or harmful? Who decides what that threshold is? Write some of your thoughts on the matter and discuss with your classmates.