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Lesson Plans

Understanding the grand jury ruling on Michael Brown’s death

November 26, 2014

Full Lesson


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The basics

1. What happened? A grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown.

2. What does that mean? Darren Wilson will not face criminal charges from the state in the future. He could face a charge from the U.S. Department of Justice, however this is unlikely to happen.

3. Who announced it and what did he say?  St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch announced the decision of the grand jury in the three-minute video clip here. You can find the full announcement here.

4. How do I discuss this in class? Dr. Marcia Chatelain began the hashtag #FergusonSyllabus on Twitter to inspire conversations between educators on how to address the events in Ferguson with students. She also gave age-specific advice for teachers discussing Ferguson with their classes on the PBS NewsHour’s Teachers’ Lounge blog.


1. Text | The Brown Family’s statement on the decision

Grand Jury Decision Reached In Ferguson Shooting Case
“We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions,” the statement said. “While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”

2. Slideshow | The New York Times – Grand jury does not indict officer in Ferguson shooting

The New York Times captures images taken in Ferguson after the decision not to indict Officer Wilson was handed down from the grand jury.

3. Video | PBS NewsHour – Understanding the grand jury ruling on Michael Brown’s death

A grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown. Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill got reactions to the verdict from Rev. Willis Johnson of Wellspring Church, Roger Goldman of Saint Louis University and Gil Alba, former detective at the New York City Police Department.

Background resources 

1. NewsHour Extra | Ferguson in the classroom

Use these videos and handouts from PBS Newshour Extra to address the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of an unarmed teenager. These news stories span from August 12, 2014, through August 29, 2014. Also check out the related media gallery on PBS LearningMedia.

2. Timeline | The New York Times – Tracking the Events in the Wake of Michael Brown’s Shooting

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Updates on the events in Ferguson, Mo., following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, by a police officer on Aug. 9 from The New York Times.

Nonviolent civil resistance resources

1. TED Talk | The success of nonviolent civil resistance

Political scientist Erica Chenowith explores the topic in-depth in her TED Talk “The success of nonviolent civil resistance.”

2. Speech | Robert F. Kennedy – Remarks on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Despite rioting in other major American cities, Indianapolis remained calm that night after Kennedy’s remarks, which is believed to have been in part because of the speech. In stark contrast to Indianapolis, riots erupted in more than one hundred U.S. cities including Chicago, New York City, Boston, Detroit, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, killing 35 and injuring more than 2,500. Across the country, approximately seventy thousand army and National Guard troops were called out to restore order.