June 2016

The events that took place in Orlando on June 12, 2016 are nothing short of tragic. Knowing how to respond to horrible acts of mass violence is challenging for us all. As many educators may find themselves unsure of how to approach the many dimensions of these events with students, we have compiled an annotated list of sources that offer suggestions for various classroom approaches to these tragic events. Please keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive.

The Events

What happened in Orlando on June 12, 2016?
The New York Times article Orlando Shooting: What We Know and Don’t Know and the Vox article Pulse Gay Nightclub Shooting in Orlando: What We Know both give an overview of the events, information about the attacker and the victims, information on mass shootings, and questions about what we still do not know. In the article, What You Need to Know About the Orlando Massacre, the Latinx LGBTQ Community and Islamophobia, the online magazine Colorlines outlines the situation, emphasizing the aftermath, various citizen initiatives to help victims, and opportunities for getting involved.

Who were the victims? 
Numerous media outlets offer stories, photos, and details about the victims and survivors of the attack. For example, the NPR article ‘They Were So Beautiful’: Remembering Those Murdered in Orlando, the BBC article Orlando Nightclub Shooting: Who Were the Victims?, and the Washington Post graphic The Lives Lost in Orlando, all provide photographs of each victim, details about their lives, and memories shared by their loved ones. This New York Times video features the account of Ashley Summers, and this ABC video features Angel Colon, both survivors of the shooting. They may be upsetting to watch.

A number of other resources discuss the identities of the victims and survivors of the attack on the whole, focusing on the complex identities of those involved. For example, the New York Times article In The Dead in Orlando, Puerto Ricans Hear a Roll Call of Their Kin could prompt classroom discussions on how queer people of Puerto Rican descent were disproportionately affected by the attack and the implications of this.

The Bustle post We Must Remember That the Orlando Shooting Happened at a Gay Club on Latin Night also discusses the importance of considering the sexual, racial, and ethnic identities of those targeted in order to more fully understand the events in Orlando.

Many people have suggested that to understand the recent tragedy, it is also important to consider the history of violence against LGBTQ people. For example, the New York Times editorial Before Orlando, There Was New Orleans, compares what happened in Orlando with another attack on the LGBTQ community in New Orleans in 1973. The author urges readers to remember that homophobic violence has persisted throughout history and perpetrators have ranged in affiliations. This article, A Brief History of Attacks at Gay and Lesbian Bars, also by the New York Times, presents six historic and contemporary examples of violence against LGBTQ groups.


Why is there debate and discussion about what to call the attack in Orlando?
Many people have debated about how to label the events that took place in Orlando. These radio reports and articles from Public Radio International and Voice of America explore different perspectives about whether the Orlando attacks were terrorist attacks by a Muslim extremist, a hate crime, or some combination of these things. A number of news articles also participate in this debate. For example, the Al Jazeera opinion piece, The Hate Behind the Orlando Massacre or the New York Times interactive graphic Mass Shooting or Terrorist Attack? Depends on Your Party may offer starting points for conversation.

This blog post by Professor Juan Cole argues that the shooting was not an act of domestic or international terrorism, but rather a hate crime.

Lesson: For those looking for a more in-depth way to teach about hate crimes in the United States, Teaching Tolerance—a subgroup of the Southern Poverty Law Center—offers a lesson plan called Hate Crimes Legislationthat engages students in primary source analysis, research, and creative presentations of the information that they learn.

Where can I get an overview of the issue of terrorism?
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism conducts scientific studies of the causes and human consequences of terrorism in the United States and around the world. The site provides educational resources, a searchable database of terrorist attacks since 1970, and numerous reports. The Council on Foreign Relations has resources in which experts explore many aspects of terrorism. Responding to Terrorism: Challenges for Democracy, a Choices Program curriculum unit, helps students consider the complex and fundamental questions that shape U.S. responses to terrorism. It focuses on historical instances of terrorism in the United States, why terrorism exists, how different stakeholders respond to terrorism, and other related issues up until 2016.

Where can I find an overview of ISIS?
The shooter in Orlando claimed affiliation to ISIS. For those looking for an up-to-date collection of resources pertaining to ISIS, you may wish to visit the PBS page ISIS: What We Know. Offering a detailed introduction to ISIS, The Islamic State by the Council on Foreign Relations may be a useful resource for teachers and advanced students. For a more basic introduction to the origins, history, goals, and tactics of ISIS, Vox’s 18 Things About ISIS You Need to Know may be a good place to start.

Lesson: To involve your students in a more in-depth discussion about terrorism and ISIS, the free Teaching with the News Lesson from the Choices Program, ISIS: A New Threat, helps students further assess the role of ISIS in the world by asking students to interpret political cartoons and engaging them in conversation about their analyses.

Guns in the United States

As is often the case following mass shootings, the attack in Orlando has resulted in many conversations about guns, gun safety, and gun laws in the United States. The Washington Post article Orlando Shooting: The Key Things to Know about Guns and Mass Shootings in America uses data, graphics, and other representations to address major questions in the debates about guns and mass shootings in the United States.

Many news sources also have pages that discuss issues of guns and gun control in the United States. The following websites may be useful for those looking to follow the current debate on guns in the United States.

Al Jazeera—Gun Control

BBC—U.S. Gun Violence

The Guardian—U.S. Gun Control

New York Times—Guns and Gun Control

PBS Newshour—Gun Control

International Politics and Responses

How has the international community responded to the attack?
This article from Yahoo News and this article from Reuters describe the international debate behind the UN Security Council’s decision to condemn the attacks in Orlando and to include language that noted that the attacker targeted LGBTQ people. The United Nations News Centre also released an article in which the Secretary-General responds to the attacks.

What are some ways that my students can get involved?
Following tragedies, many people, students and educators alike, find themselves unsure of what they can do to respond in a helpful and constructive way. Honoring the victims and survivors and raising awareness for pressing issues in the United States is one way in which students may choose to get involved. A number of vigils have been held and continue to take place across the country to support the victims and survivors and to raise awareness about violence, LBGTQ concerns, terrorism, gun safety, Islamophobia, and many other issues. Up-to-date information on the times and locations of these vigils is available on social media. Alternatively, students may wish to organize a memorial or a vigil to take place at their school or in their community.

In addition, The Huffington Post article How to Help the Orlando Shooting Victims and Their Families provides links to learn more about local LGBTQ fundraising efforts, suggestions for getting involved in the LGBTQ movement, information about donating blood, and resources about fighting gun violence.

Sensitivity in the Classroom

Facing History offers general tips for cultivating safer spaces for classroom discussion. Teaching Tolerance also provides suggestions for educators looking to make their schools LGBTQ friendly.

The University of Oklahoma’s Terrorism and Disaster Center offers some thoughtful advice on facilitating classroom conversations about tragedies covered in the media in the resource Helping Students Cope With Media Coverage of Disasters.

The community google document #PulseOrlandoSyllabus, put together by librarians and teachers and endorsed by Teaching Tolerance blogger Christina Torres, offers links to numerous resources for creating LGBTQ and racially inclusive classrooms, supporting students during difficult situations, and leading productive conversations about the events in Orlando and other events around the world.

Lesson: Teaching Tolerance has designed a lesson on Debunking Stereotypes about Muslims and Islam where students interpret charts and graphs as way to generate conversation about the Muslim population in the United States and the truths behind popular myths.

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