‘We were finally able to formulate our own opinion’

Teacher promotes controlled Ferguson discussion


Lauren Saxon

Police surround peaceful protestors in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio after the Michael Brown verdict. The decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson initiated disputes all over the world, including Cincinnati. SHS teacher Meredith Blackmore led a classroom discussion on the matter, encouraging the students to form their own views and defend all sides of the story.

The shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has sparked nationwide interest. After the decision was made not to indict the offending officer, SHS students blew up on social media, posting their opinions on the matter.

Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram flooded with messages of disapproval, anger, confusion, and some apathy. It is clear that the student body has an opinion, but by the time they returned to school, the decision was rarely discussed in the classroom setting.

Ms. Meredith Blackmore was one of the SHS teachers who allotted significant class time to discuss the event, and it was much appreciated.

“We were finally able to formulate our own opinion without being influenced by our parents,” senior Talia Bailes said.

The manner in which Blackmore led her class discussions minimized extreme emotions and arguments, while forcing the students to remain open-minded about the decision.

First, she relayed the facts. Brown, age 19, was shot six times from close range by Officer Darren Wilson after an altercation. The incident occurred in an area that has a history of racism and poor interactions between citizens and police officers.

Students were then given a marker and asked to write a word or phrase on the board expressing their thoughts on the shooting and the nation’s reaction.

After examining the opinions of their peers, Blackmore asked the students to draw a heart beside the statements they agree with.

Popular phrases in her third bell class were: “We need change,” “Racism still exists,” and “Violence is not the answer.”

Then, the students found a partner and were asked to debate the argument. The catch, however, was that each student was asked to defend the side of the story they would not usually support.

“Ms. Blackmore handled it very impartially. It was good that she didn’t try to impose her beliefs on us, and tried to get us to see and defend the other side of the story,” senior Samantha Ciricillo said.

The controversy surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown is enough to ignite many fights among teenagers and adults with differing views.

Blackmore stresses the importance of being able to communicate your opinion clearly in today’s society. By facilitating a calm classroom discussion rather than a heated debate, she prevented the typical closed-minded attitude.

“I think it’s great that I have a teacher willing to acknowledge real-world issues. She treats us like we are able to create our own views,” Bailes said.