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For Grades 9-12 , week of June 19, 2023

1. MINNEAPOLIS REPORT

The Justice Department recently released a report detailing the discrimination and systemic abuse at the hands of police in Minneapolis following a multi-year investigation that began after George Floyd died at the hands of police. The report, which examines conduct of the police department dating back years before Floyd’s death, specifically calls out instances of repeated discrimination against Black and Native American people, First Amendment rights violations at protests, and the unconstitutional use of deadly force. Using your newspaper or online, research other cities that have police departments accused of civil rights violations. Write an article that compares the different cities and how they have or have not addressed the issues they’re accused of.

2. FOUND GUILTY

A truck driver who attacked a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, killing eleven people and injuring seven—including five responding police officers—was found guilty on 63 criminal counts in federal court. Jurors will now decide if 50-year-old Robert Bowers will be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty for his actions. The charges against Bowers included hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of the free exercise of religion resulting in death. The defense did not dispute Bowers’ guilt during the trial, instead focusing on mounting evidence to keep him from facing the death penalty. However, even if he is sentenced to death, executions have been temporarily paused by Attorney General Merrick Garland while he reviews capital punishment polices and procedures. Research the current state of capital punishment in the US, specifically the laws in Pennsylvania. Write an article about the court proceedings for Robert Bowers and what he could face if convicted of the death penalty.

3. BANK PAYOUT

Banking company JPMorgan Chase has reached a tentative $290 million settlement with the victims of Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested in 2019 and accused of paying underage girls for massages and sexually assaulting them. The victims accused JPMorgan Chase of allowing Epstein to continue his sex trafficking operation by providing him loans and allowing him to withdraw large sums of cash after being made aware of his illegal activities. While the bank maintains that they did not know he was using the funding to commit crimes, they have tentatively agreed to settle with the victims and are pursing a lawsuit against former executive Jes Staley, who the bank accuses of hiding Epstein’s crimes in order to keep him as a client of the bank. Write an opinion article, taking a stance on whether the bank should be held responsible in Epstein’s crimes and discussing the role banks do or do not play in stopping sex trafficking.

4. MORGUE ARREST

A nationwide network that bought and sold human remains was exposed after the manager of a morgue for Harvard Medical School was caught selling parts from cadavers that were donated for medical research. Six people were charged in connection with the network for crimes like conspiracy and interstate transport of stolen goods. The bodies were donated to the medical school, where they were dissected as part of the curriculum for medical students. The remains were then scheduled to be cremated, but the manager would allegedly allow other members of this network into the morgue to purchase parts of the bodies before they were cremated. Write a list of questions you would ask if you were able to interview the morgue manager, families of the victims who donated their bodies for research, and the dean of the Harvard Medical School for an article about this case.

5. GEN Z IN COURT

Sixteen young climate activists in Montana have gone to trial after suing the state for prioritizing the needs of companies, particularly in the fossil fuel industry, rather than the future of the planet for its young citizens. The plaintiffs, who range in age from 5 to 22, include Native American tribe members, a child of a ranching family, people with health conditions like asthma, and those who have been harmed by wildfire smoke, heat, and droughts. While the lawsuit may not directly impact policies in the state, the group hopes to set an important legal precedent about the government’s responsibility to preserve the planet and reverse climate change. Using your newspaper or online, research how climate change has affected the state of Montana specifically. Then, write an article explaining what you learned and how the young climate activists’ lawsuit could affect the future of the state.